U.S. news b’casts set for Iraq

Nets to show citizens how a free press works

WASHINGTON — Iraqi citizens will get their first glimpse today of television network news, American style.

In an unprecedented move, all the television news nets — minus CNN — have agreed to let the U.S. Information Agency air their evening broadcasts in Iraq. The plan, cleared by the White House, is part of an ambitious propaganda campaign to show Iraqi citizens how a free press works.

CNN said it didn’t think it was appropriate for an independent news org to participate in a U.S. government video transmission.

Radio mogul Norman Pattiz, who sits on the USIA’s Board of Governors, served as the middleman between the White House and network news division presidents.

News nets said the newscasts, which will be translated into Arabic and subtitled, must air in their entirety.

No commercials

Pattiz said commercials will be edited out.

The first lineup of newscasts skedded to air in Iraq today are from Monday night. That means Iraqis will hear all about Laci Peterson and SARS.

USIA said it will broadcast from Commando Solo, a U.S. Air Force plane flying above Iraq. Terrestrial towers, badly damaged during the war, will be used as they are repaired.

“The White House wanted to get something up as quickly as possible, and we’ve done that,” Pattiz said. “Am I excited? We’ve been moving to fast and furious, I haven’t had time to think about it.”

Five shows take part

The news shows participating are ABC’s “World News Tonight With Peter Jennings,” “CBS Evening News With Dan Rather,” NBC’s “Nightly News With Tom Brokaw,” PBS’ “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” and Fox News’ “Special Report With Brit Hume.”

Pattiz said the new USIA channel is anchored around a two-hour Arabic newscast that has been up and running for several days. Show is being taped at USIA’s studios in Washington.

It is unclear how long USIA will run the newscasts being provided at no charge by the news networks.

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