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WASHINGTON, July 12 - There's truly no business like show business.

That old song title was reinforced during a recent visit to Australia and New Zealand, where coverage of the U.S. was frequent, detailed and prominently played. But the lens through which America was presented to the South Pacific was not Wall Street or Capitol Hill.

Al-Jazeera-America is coming to town, heading straight for your living room.

Its executives, from their headquarters in the tiny Middle East gulf state of Qatar, have held preliminary talks in the U.S. with cable operators about carrying the channel's new English-language service, expected to debut early next year.

Egyptian-born Dina Habib Powell says America must listen if it wants to be understood abroad. But first she must get people to listen to her.


This op-ed piece was originally published on the Daily Star on June 28, 2005. The Daily Star is published in Beirut, and it is the "insert" paper that comes folded inside every copy of the International Herald Tribune published in the Middle East (except Ha'aretz in Israel). -- the Editor

So Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is not Iran's new president. That result must come as a particular surprise to anyone who tried to follow the campaign by light of the Western media.

It's time to reinvent U.S. government international broadcasting - again. But this time, let's get it right and privatize this operation.

What's hot in public diplomacy?
Answer: C-SPAN, but of course.

What's not?
Answer: Everything else.

An exaggeration, perhaps, but there's no denying that the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN), which provides gavel-to-gavel coverage of Congress, press briefings, newsmaker speeches, public policy discussions, and much more, is mentioned more than anything else nowadays by those recognized as in the know who are trying to help "fix" America's lagging public diplomacy effort in the Middle East.

So now we are told that Mark Felt may not have been Deep Throat after all.

The watchdog group Accuracy in Media (AIM) quotes a Watergate scandal expert, Joan Huff, a Montana State University history professor, as saying that this is all "an orchestrated publicity stunt on the part of the (Washington) Post" to publicize Bob Woodward's new book.

There's a boom in the popularity of Arab songs on the most successful channels in the Middle East. The digital music marketplace is very technically advanced, and U.S. government broadcasting isn't keeping pace.

Apart from the news channels which carry on the war of ideas, many in Arab countries would rather watch video clips of Pussy Samir, a singer/dancer, and Boozy Samir (no relation perhaps, but also a singer/dancer), on the "Melody Hits" satellite channel and website, among many others like it.


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