A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

more TV watching

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on August 14, 2008

I see from this morning’s news alerts that the US State Department is working itself into a tizzy about the fact that Hizbullah’s al-Manar satellite channel is broadcasting to South Asia on an Indonesian satellite. I’m not sure whether the State Department is upset more about the broadcasting or the fact that the Indonesian government seems eminently unmoved by US government concerns.

(The government apparently owns 15% of Indosat, the satellite parent company, and its spokespeople are describing al-Manar as adding to the diversity of views available to viewers and as a news channel “similar to Al Jazeera, BBC, and CNN”. Yes – Al Jazeera, another channel the Bush administration loves.)

I’m finding it hard to take the State Department’s concern too seriously, largely because of the timing.

Why? Because this is, strictly speaking, not news. Al-Manar began broadcasting on Palapa 2, the Indosat satellite, in April (which explains why its contract runs until April 2011). Perhaps the State Department missed the early news coverage due to language issues, since it seems to have been largely in Bahasa – like this story, which appeared April 22.

But any Internet prowler should have been able to find the blogworld’s commentary about al-Manar, including this combination of translated news links and commentary on Indonesia Matters.

And on May 1, members of Shia Chat, which claims to be the largest Shia forum on the Internet, began providing instructions for would-be viewers, with one poster noting that:

Al-Manar TV is now available in the Asia-Pacific via satellite.

C-Band
Satellite: Palapa C2 (113 degrees East)
Frequency: 4080
Symbol Rate: 28125
Polarity: Horizontal
FEC: 3/4

Anyone in the highlighted area can pick it up.

The poster also provided a map:

as well as instructions for Europe-based readers, who can apparently view al-Manar on a satellite called Atlantic Bird. (For this information and to read the very interesting discussion thread that follows, go here.)

April to August is four months. I understand that the wheels of government turn slowly, but I am curious as to why the State Department is making an issue of Indosat’s contract with Al-Manar now.

I understand why it criticizes the channel – like all Lebanese channels, it does engage in heavy political propaganda, and its broadcasts about resistance do shade perilously close to incitement. But I am curious about the timing.

And if you’re curious about Al Manar but don’t live in the Arab world or South Asia, you can easily watch it online. Just google “al-manar watch online”. The quality of the image will depend on the speed of your connection, but you’ll get a good sense of the channel and its broadcasts.

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