Palestinian TV bows on West Bank

RAMALLAH, the West Bank — Palestinians watched last week as a key sign of emerging political autonomy — an independent TV station — went on the air.

The first broadcasts for a Palestinian TV station began July 8 from Ramallah, and included an Egyptian comedy series, Arab movies and a half-hour news bulletin.

The station is called the Palestine Television Authority and has received partial funding from unconfirmed external sources and has requested an additional $ 30 million grant from the European Community to develop technical expertise and general management skills for the station.

However, members of the Israel Broadcasting Authority management committee say the trial broadcasts should end and the station be closed down.

They contend the broadcasts were undertakenwithout any approval or coordination from the Civil Administration, the branch of the Israeli army that administers the territories.

The driving force behind the new station is Daoud Kuttab, a West Bank journalist who is the manager of Al-Quds Television Prods. That company has produced two documentaries on the Palestinians, both of which were financed by Channel Four in Britain. Kuttab has also established a non-profit org in East Jerusalem to help Palestinian filmmakers develop their ideas into docu films.

Kuttab said that in the first few years the station will depend on international aid and individual donations.

Shlomo Kor, committee member of the Israel Broadcast Authority, said, “These broadcasts could spell the end of ITV’s Arabic broadcasts. The financing for the new station has come directly from the PLO, an organization the Israeli government does not yet recognize.”

The director of the new Palestine TV, Radwan Abu Ayyash, says its creation was not dependent on any prior Palestinian-Israeli political solution worked out in Washington or anywhere else.

He said he has applied to the Israeli military authorities for a license to broadcast and believes a permit will soon be granted.

Although just off the ground, the PTA will already have to take on an aggressive competitor. Middle East Broadcasting, the Arabic-language satellite station based in London, is negotiating with the Jordanian government to receive permission to use one of its TV frequencies to broadcast to the West Bank.

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