“Al Youm” is used as a centerpiece of this Alhurra case study to illustrate the power of both the Obama effect and quality TV programming to move forward the U.S. credibility needle in the Middle East.
Alhurra Television is the most recognized and criticized brand of the family of U.S. nonmilitary international broadcasting services. Alhurra (or Al Hurra) is part of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) that emerged, along with Radio Sawa, in the post-9/11 era. Alhurra launched in 2004, less than a year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Its reputation and credibility have been tied directly to the successes and failures of the George W. Bush administration (2001-2009). In 2008, a new administration was elected with a Democrat who promised to lift the reputation of the United States in the world, specifically in the Middle East among Arab and Muslim populations.
Less than two months after Barack Obama’s historic inauguration as president, Alhurra launched its most ambitious program to date, “Al Youm,” Arabic for “Today.” A groundbreaking three-hour prime time evening program, “Al Youm” is changing not only the reputation of Alhurra in the Middle East, but also the face of television journalism. The maturation of U.S. television broadcasting is underway. This case study examines the history of Alhurra from the Bush years of 2004-2009 through Obama’s first year of 2009.