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NAIROBI – December 10

Is Africa becoming part of the Middle Kingdom?

That is a popular question in the news recently: The week began with a Council on Foreign Relations report describing Africa's strategic importance to the United States. The report was comprehensive, but most American media accounts focused on one chapter, about energy, and how the Chinese were cultivating African oil, gas and other resources.

December 15, 2005

The latest international television satellite channel, Russia Today, debuted this week, after securing a bank loan of $30 million to cover start up costs. It will broadcast in English, as do satellite networks from the BBC, the Chinese government, and the proposed Al Jazeera channel. The satellite news bandwagon is getting more crowded all the time and English will be the language of choice as new channels develop.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee conceded that its recent call for a debate on Alhurra's effectiveness should have happened before America’s Arabic television channel went on the air. But the oversight committee is too late. The dispute rages daily in Washington and the Middle East, and battle lines have been drawn on two major issues.

One is who is watching Alhurra, and the other is what they see there.

At the Second Life meeting, we discussed different resources to find out more about public diplomacy for the contest.

Here are some suggested readings on our own wiki:

November 29, 2005

Karen Hughes is America's Top Gun communicator. But how will her job performance be rated 25 or even 50 years from now by her team in the State Department, elsewhere around the world and in the many politico-history books that will be written about her?

Of course it's too early to tell, as she is just finding her way as the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. But does she have the qualities that helped raise some former directors of the defunct U.S. Information Agency to legendary status?

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.”



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