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A Waste of Public Diplomacy? The Performance of Al-Hurra TV among Lebanon's University Students

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As part of their 'War on Terror', Washington policy makers launched a massive public diplomacy campaign hoping to 'gain Muslim hearts and minds.' Their efforts, including the production of advertisements and documentaries, culminated with the inauguration of Al-Hurra, a commercial-free satellite station broadcasting in Arabic. Despite the substantial amount of money poured into it, Al-Hurra's success was strongly questioned among media scholars and US policy experts. And yet, Al-Hurra has generated very little academic research testing its effectiveness as an instrument of public diplomacy. This article reports the results of a survey administered in seven Lebanese universities to assess the performance of Al-Hurra among the country's college students. More specifically, it examines Al-Hurra's viewership, credibility, and trustworthiness in comparison to Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. The paper also tests the relation between Al-Hurra's viewership and audience attitude toward the United States. Findings show that Al-Hurra's viewership is considerably lower than Al-Jazeera's and Al-Arabiya's. Its credibility is also lower than that of its two Arab counterparts. Finally, Al-Hurra viewership did not predict a positive attitude toward the USA. The study raises questions about public diplomacy tools in general and Al-Hurra in particular.


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