Thursday, November 10, 2005

Arabic Language Network Backed By U.S. Under Investigation

Al-Hurra, the Arabic language satellite television network established last year by the Bush Administration to rival Al-Jazeera, is being investigated.

The State Department's Inspector General is overseeing one investigation, which will look into "possible irregularities" with procurement and contracting as well as "concerns that viewing figures might be inflated." The network claims to have 21 million viewers.

Separately, the House Committee on International Relations subcommittee on oversight and investigations is also looking into the Virginia-based network, which broadcasts to 22 countries. A hearing is scheduled for today.

Al-Hurra began televising in February 2004 and has a budget of $49 million for 2005.

If you're wondering why you haven't heard about this story, you're not alone. Other than the New York Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, no other major U.S. newspaper apparently followed up Financial Times, which broke the story. The story did, however, get play in far-off places like Australia and India.

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The network is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency in charge of all U.S. government international broadcasting services. Kenneth Tomlinson -- BBG chair and until very recently a member of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- and Al-Hurra news director Mouafac Harb will be called as witnesses for the hearing, according to Financial Times.

Tomlinson is apparently the key figure. He was ousted by the CPB on Nov. 3 after its inspector general concluded an investigation that suggested Tomlinson used federal money for personal purposes, used Broadcasting Board money for corporation activities, used board employees to do corporation work and hired ghost employees or improperly qualified employees.

The State Department inspector general opened an inquiry in July after Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) forwarded accusations of misuse of money from Broadcasting Board employees.

In recent weeks, State Department investigators have seized records and e-mail from the Broadcasting Board, officials said. They have shared some material with the inspector general at the corporation, including e-mail traffic between Tomlinson and senior White House officials, including presidential adviser Karl Rove.

On Nov. 3, Tomlinson was forced to step down from the CPB after its board was briefed about the conclusions by its inspector general.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Roland99 said...

Culture of Corruption

Most accurate label of the GOP I've ever seen or heard.

11:43 AM  

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