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Group Donates TV Equipment to Promote Balanced News Coverage

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2004 – A shipment of television equipment is on its way to Iraq to help Iraqi broadcasters offer more balanced news coverage than what is currently available in the region.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Col. Robert Knapp, commander of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., thanks Spirit of America founder Jim Hake for the group's donation of television equipment to support U.S. military efforts in Iraq. Photo courtesy of Spirit of America
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image)

Members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq's Anbar province expressed concerned that extremely negative news coverage by the local media was stoking resentment toward the U.S. military and encouraging conflict.

They turned to Spirit of America, a nonprofit group committed to helping Americans serving abroad improve people's lives, to request television equipment to be used to offer more balanced news.

On April 29 just three weeks after Spirit of America received the Marines' request Spirit of America founder Jim Hake delivered $82,687 in television studio equipment to Camp Pendleton, Calif. The Marines packed the donated equipment and prepared it for shipment, and on May 1, the U.S. military flew it from March Air Force Base, Calif., to Iraq.

"This rapid turnaround makes a difference in Iraq," said Hake, who explained that the equipment, all donated by the American public, will be owned and operated by local Iraqi citizens.

Hake said the equipment will be donated to seven television stations serving local communities within Anbar province. The province includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.

Recipients of the donated equipment will be free to create their own news and choose their own programming, Hake explained. However, they must agree to prohibit "airing of anti-coalition messages that incite the local population," he said. The stations must also agree to sell airtime at a fair market price so the Marines can communicate their information efficiently and quickly when needed, Hake said.

Hake said the stations will provide "the full picture" of events in the region. For example, he said, recent broadcasts in the province showed images of a mosque in Fallujah damaged during fighting. Using the new equipment donated by Spirit of America, Hake said the stations also would have aired video provided by the Marines that shows insurgents firing on the Marines from the mosque grounds.

The stations also will broadcast news of reconstruction projects and humanitarian assistance that balances the news of conflict, Hake said.

Hake said the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force requested the television equipment to help dispel suspicion and mistrust generated by "negative, highly biased accounts of the U.S. presence" in Iraq.

"The lack of accurate news reports during this rebuilding phase undercuts the good work being performed throughout the majority of Iraq," the Marines wrote Hake when requesting the television equipment. "Instead, news is being passed by word of mouth and becomes more and more distorted as the tales are retold."

The Marines told Hake it is "essential to the success of the Marine Corps' mission in Iraq that the Iraqi people understand our sincerest desires to help them rebuild their country and lay the foundation for a viable and free democratic society."

Hake said the goal of the donation is "to improve understanding between Americans and Iraqis, build trust and reduce tensions."

The television equipment donation is just one of many Spirit of America projects to support initiatives by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more information about Spirit of America or to make a donation, visit the organization's Web site.

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