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Six Minutes to Freedom
Agency Issues Deceptive Press Release
March 14, 2005

Dateline: Washington, 03/14/05. The Broadcasting Board of Governors put their own brand of spin on research they apparently commissioned regarding audience figures in Syria. The press release makes fantastic claims about the BBG's failed projects -- Alhurra and Radio Sawa. If the claims are examined critically one can see the problems with the way the statistics are presented.

For instance the press release claims that Alhurra has a weekly viewership of 39 percent among all Syrian adults (15 and over) *residing in satellite television households*. This looks impressive at first. But in reality what it says is that of every 10 Syrians living in a household with satellite television capability, only 4 have watched Alhurra at least once a week. The press release further states that of the 39 percent that did watch Alhurra, 60 percent found it reliable. Breaking that down, of the 4 out of 10 who bothered watching at least once a week, only slightly more than half found Alhurra reliable. Those are not real good numbers.

The press release went on to try to puff up Radio Sawa's numbers. It claimed that 13 percent of all adults in Syria listened to Radio Sawa on a weekly basis. This may include someone who happened to sample Radio Sawa once in a week. According to the press release, of those 13 percent, 75 percent found the news on Radio Sawa reliable. That means more than a quarter of those who bothered to listen at least once a week found the station to be not reliable. And remember in both cases (Alhurra and Radio Sawa) these are individuals who sought out the stations. That sample by nature should be more inclined to find them reliable.

Of course in the past the BBG had a funny way of arriving at their claims when it came to the reliability question. In a previous survey respondents were asked if they found Radio Sawa "reliable" or "somewhat reliable". The BBG added those two figures together to claim that a majority of listeners found that Radio Sawa news was "reliable". But a grade of "somewhat reliable" is a failing grade for any news organization.
(AFGE Local 1812 via DXLD 5-050)

CRW Editor's Note: The above union press release fails to acknowledge the context of BBG's challenge in attracting an audience in Syria, where ownership of a satellite dish is punishable with imprisonment. The press release also fails to disclose the nature of AFGE Local 1812's relationship with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG). AFGE Local 1812 represents Voice of America employees and has long criticized BBG for "managing to convince" Congress to establish Radio Sawa and Al-Hurra as broadcast entities independent of VOA control. (Nick Grace-USA March 14)
Al Hurra
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