The New York Times has an interesting article about the efforts of the US government to aim television programs at Iran's youth.
Another segment showed Iranian students at the University of Maryland enjoying Mehregan, a traditional Persian fall festival, without mentioning directly what viewers in Iran already know: that this secular holiday's celebration is discouraged by the country's religious leaders.
A regular feature called "A Day in the Life" uses a reality television approach to showcase ordinary Iranian 20-somethings living in the United States. As the jumpy camera followed Anahita Sami, a 20-year-old student, and her friends around the campus of George Washington University, she chatted about dorm life, exams, being away from home for the first time, nothing particularly exciting. But the point is made: Yeah, she can wear those clothes, say those things and do that stuff.
The separate VOA youth oriented Radio Sawa, budgeted at $35 million per year, is aimed at the youth in Arab countries. Considering how many tens or hundreds of billions (the exact amount is debateable depending on how much of the US military budget can be seen as due to the Middle East) the US is spending in the war on terrorism, domestic security, and related subjects the $35 million for Radio Sawa and the $8 million for the Farsi Radio (the NY Times doesn't appear to have a total cost for all programming aimed at Iran) seems like chump change. A larger effort is called for.
The US seems to have an interesting blindspot when it comes to "soft" efforts. Whether its radio and TV programming or its spies on the ground there is a tendency to not try hard enough with efforts that are less tangible in nature and more aimed at reaching and influencing minds. Physical objects used by real men warriors that are designed for doing direct battle with the enemy such as reconnaissance satellites, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets get tens and hundreds of billions of dollars spent on them per year. But the idea of cultural war isn't seen as credible for some reason. Its probably because most people can't see how the cultural wars play out. One can't easily observe what goes on in the minds of people in distant cultures living in oppressive and less accessible societies.
Meantime, new research from Amman, Jordan shows the credibility of Radio Sawa’s news is growing steadily.
When a scientific sample representing Radio Sawa’s target audience of 17-28 year old radio listeners was asked in a November 7, 2002 survey, "What station do you listen to most for news," 41 percent answered Radio Sawa, which made the station #1 in the Jordanian capital. That compares with 21 percent for the Jordanian Government’s Amman FM; 16 percent for MBC-FM; 10 percent for for BBC-FM and 6 percent for Radio Monte Carlo and Amman AM, also owned by the Jordanian Government.
Asked: "What station has the most accurate and trustworthy news?" Radio Sawa again was #1 with 39 percent. Amman FM garnered 21 percent; MBC-FM, 13 percent; BBC-FM, 11 percent; Radio Monte Carlo and Amman AM, 5 percent.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2002 December 09 01:00 PM Civilizations Clash Of|