Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington, DC's Arab Network of America Scoops the National Capital

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Washington, DC's Arab Network of America Scoops the National Capital

Article excerpt

It wasn't CNN, ABC, NBC, or CBS that broke the story of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in America's national capital. At 5:15 pm on Aug. 1, the Washington area's Arab Network of America first announced that Iraqi troops had invaded Kuwait at 2 am Aug. 2, Kuwait time.

"We take great pride in the fact that we broke the news three hours before President Bush was informed, and five hours before CNN reported the story," says ANA's Egyptian-born general manager, Atef Abdel Gawad, with a quiet smile. The Network altered its programming to include ten hours of continuous crisis coverage, relaying hourly Arabic-language newscasts received from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Finding a Niche

Transmitting its signal from a small station in Waldorf, Maryland, and serving the District of Columbia as well as adjacent areas of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, ANA has found its own niche in the media industry. By broadcasting all day, seven days a week in Arabic, ANA represents the nation's first serious endeavor to provide the Arab-American community with a medium suited to its special needs.

ANA's chairman, Saudi businessman Mohammed Bedrawi, explains that his organization conducted a demographic survey of Arab Americans and a study of 14 different media markets. "We found there was a void in the needs of Arab Americans, especially in terms of news," he said. Arab Americans perceived that there was no news about the Middle East coming into American media on a daily basis unless there was a major catastrophe.

"From our study we concluded that the BBC was the news service of preference among Arab Americans," continued Bedrawi. He purchased exclusive US rights to the BBC's Arabic Service news broadcasts, which are also highly respected in the Middle East.

ANA approaches its one-year anniversary with rave reviews from local Arab Americans, who say it is an integral part of their lives because ANA's programming format is so similar to radio in their homelands. In addition to its broadcast of BBC news, ANA airs cultural programs produced by the BBC, drama series it purchases from Arab-world stations and producers, and its own locally produced segments. The latter, which account for one third of the network's programming, include both Muslim and Christian religious shows, music from various regions of the Arab world, including a weekly hour of legendary Egyptian singer Um Kalthoum, daily weather and traffic reports, and call-in shows featuring Arab physicians, academics, and government representatives.

Arab-American entrepreneurs seem especially pleased because ANA is the first selective medium that reaches their target markets directly. "My ads with ANA have given me better results than any other advertising medium," said Mohammed El-Shahed of American Royal Travel, who has advertised with ANA for nine months. "ANA has proved to be the most effective way of reaching the Arab-American consumer."

Bedrawi stated that while present advertising revenues don't cover ANA's fixed costs, "with future expansion into other markets, we expect to break even soon."

Soraya Hammad of the Washington-based Center for Educational Development has a problem with ANA broadcasts, however. "As an American of Palestinian descent, I would like to benefit from the services of ANA so that I could be in touch with the Arab world on a daily basis," she explained. …

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