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Alhurra needs a facelift.

The ratings of America’s Arabic TV channel are flat among Iraqi audiences, the Bush administration is turning elsewhere to reach Arab and Muslim publics abroad and Congress is poised to debate Alhurra’s future.

As a result, Alhurra appears to be seeking a harder edge to its programs in an effort to attract viewers and to make the channel a more popular platform for the discussion of U.S. foreign policies. A recent public opinion poll confirmed that such changes must be made if Alhurra hopes to survive in such a competitive market.

The Bush administration is beginning to provide specifics on how it plans to shape up U.S. public diplomacy and effectively introduce American ideas to the Arab and Muslim world.

Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and a confidant of President Bush, testified before the House International Relations Committee last week in “An Around-the-World Review of Public Diplomacy.”

Authors Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby were interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation about their new book Smart Bomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment and Big Bucks in the Video Game Revolution.  Their book is another rendition of the history of video games told from a cozy almost “in-world” feeling.

3 cities in 12 days. Los Angeles to New York City to Austin to Washington DC and finally back to Los Angeles.

3 very different conferences - the first being Games for Change.

The world is divided among three superpowers: the United States, the United Kingdom, and al-Jazeera.

The world of Arabic satellite channels, that is.

Each of the three has claimed its section of this world, defining it in a tidy little package called a business model. The models created by the U.K. and al-Jazeera have filled, or plan to fill, specific voids in the marketplace. The third superpower has its business model too, but the void it attempts to fill is more vague than the others, and thus its goals have been more difficult to attain.

It is relatively clear to me where U.S. public diplomacy is headed in 2006. And so there’s really no reason to wait until late December, or New Year’s day, to make predictions about the coming new year.

Therefore, I will submit my predictions now, and take my chances.

WASHINGTON -- Oct. 22

Thursday night was a big night for Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language television news channel in the Middle East.

The preemptive lead story was the release of the UN report on the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon.

For most news organizations, it was a story worth at best three or four news reports. At Al Jazeera, editors decided this was the only story of the night.

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