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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 20:26 GMT 21:26 UK
US plans more broadcasts to Muslims
Demonstrators burn the US flag in Pakistan
American lawmakers want to improve the US's image

The US House of Representatives has voted to increase American radio and TV broadcasts to Muslim countries and to promote other public diplomacy measures in an effort to counter rising anti-American sentiment.

The Freedom Promotion Act of 2002, passed on Monday, allocates $135m to expand radio and TV programming from the US to Islamic nations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa to broaden access to what legislators described as "uncensored news and entertainment".


Our actions are widely depicted in the Muslim world as a war against Islam

Henry Hyde, House committee chairman

The act provides a total of $255m over two years to improve State Department communications strategies, finance academic exchange programmes, English-language teaching and twin-city partnerships - all with predominantly Muslim countries - as well as expanding US international broadcasting.

Funds would also help to modernize technology used to distribute information about the United States and increase translation services at overseas posts.

"Much of the popular press overseas, often including the government-owned media, daily depict the United States as a force for evil, accusing this country of an endless number of malevolent plots against the world," Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said in Monday's debate.

The Republican representative from Illinois, who is the chief sponsor of the bill, added: "Even as we strike against the network of terrorists who masterminded the murder of thousands of Americans, our actions are widely depicted in the Muslim world as a war against Islam."

There is a need, Mr Hyde said, to ensure that "the truth about our country rises above the cacophony of hate and misinformation that often passes for discourse in many areas of the world".

'Ineffective and antiquated'

In testimony last year before the House International Relations Committee, the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees US international broadcasting efforts, stated that "we have virtually no youthful audience under the age of 25 in the Arab world," Mr Hyde recalled.

Man watches a video made by Osama bin Laden
Hyde says the US is often seen as a 'force of evil'

He went on: "It is increasingly clear that much of the problem lies in our ineffective and often antiquated methods. For example, broadcasts on shortwave radio simply cannot compete with AM and FM channels in terms of accessibility, to say nothing of television, the most powerful medium of all.

"Shifting our efforts into these and other broad-based media, including the Internet and others, will take time and money, but this reorientation is a prerequisite to reaching our intended audience."

According to US officials, the information counter-offensive would involve government-owned Voice of America stepping up its radio broadcasts on AM and using more local FM radio relays, as well as seeking broader access via local TV channels in the Muslim world.

Supporters of the act said US public-diplomacy specialists should increase their use of the Internet and take a more active part in the public debate in Muslim countries.

The legislation still has to be considered by the Senate, but according to Mr Hyde, the State Department supports it.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.


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16 Oct 01 | Media reports
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