`Mosaic' opens window to Middle East stations

WorldLink newscast goes to dish owners

March 24, 2003|By Dana Hull | Dana Hull,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

SAN JOSE, Calif. - One television monitor shows CNN with its "Showdown Iraq" logo. On another, an anchor on Lebanon's Al-Manar TV, a privately owned station controlled by the fundamentalist movement Hezbollah, talks about diplomatic wrangling at the United Nations. On a third screen, a Baghdad correspondent from the United Arab Emirates' Abu Dhabi TV gives a live report.

They're all playing on a bank of monitors at WorldLink TV, a nonprofit network based in San Francisco that makes news broadcasts from the Arab world and Israel available to satellite TV subscribers in the United States.

WorldLink takes news programs from 16 foreign stations from Egypt to Israel to Syria, adds English voiceovers and transmits a repackaged program called Mosaic to households with satellite dishes. The half-hour program, aired five days a week, gives Americans who don't speak Arabic or Hebrew a rare window into the Middle East.

"After Sept. 11, a lot of people asked, `Why do they hate us?'" said David Michaelis, a veteran Israeli journalist who is World- Link's director of current affairs. "You will never understand that if you only watch American television. To understand how America is viewed in the Middle East, you need to watch the media they are seeing."

Except for English translations, Mosaic leaves the news broadcasts from other countries in their original form, without commentary or analysis. The segments are edited for time so that each show contains footage from stations across the region.

That footage is far more graphic and bloody than what is usually seen in the United States. When a suicide bomb explodes on a bus in Jerusalem, the Israel Broadcasting Authority quickly rushes to the scene. When the Israeli military fires missiles into a village in the West Bank, Palestine Television, the official station of the Palestinian National Authority in Gaza, often shows images of bloody Palestinians with missing limbs being rushed to the hospital. Mosaic airs both.

"It's not easy to watch it, but it's really important to compare perspectives," Michaelis said.

WorldLink is operated by Link Media, a nonprofit company formed through a partnership of four independent media organizations. WorldLink specializes in documentaries on global issues, foreign feature films, and world music, and its target audience is decidedly liberal.

Mosaic is available to the 20 million U.S. households that have satellite dishes. A consultant estimates that 2.9 million households have watched WorldLink, but the network doesn't know how many dish owners watch the Mosaic program. Some of Mosaic's episodes can also be viewed on the Web at www.worldlinktv.com.

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