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Wednesday
Dec082010

Wikileaks Cable: American TV Shows 'Agents of Influence' in Saudi Arabia

PhotoCourtesy - Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- American television shows broadcast across the Middle East are proving to be effective "agents of influence" in the ongoing battle over hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims pondering jihad against the United States, a confidential government cable published by Wikileaks reveals.

ABC's Desperate Housewives and World News with Diane Sawyer, as well as CBS' Late Show with David Letterman" and NBC's Friends, all carry more sway with viewers than a U.S. taxpayer-funded Middle East broadcast network, an unnamed Saudi source told U.S. embassy officials last year.

"It's still all about the war of ideas here, and the American programming on [privately-owned] MBC and Rotana is winning over ordinary Saudis in a way that 'Al Hurra' and other U.S. propaganda never could," the source said.

"Saudis are now very interested in the outside world, and everybody wants to study in the U.S. if they can. They are fascinated by U.S. culture in a way they never were before."

The Saudi government has permitted the satellite broadcasts of American programming uncensored with Arabic subtitles over the privately-owned Middle East Broadcasting group, or MBC, as a "means of countering the extremists."

U.S. officials also wrote in the cable to Washington that some American movies, broadcast over Rotana's Fox Movies channel, were particularly influential with Saudi audiences.

They credited two, unnamed "mawkish U.S. dramas featuring respectful, supportive American husbands dealing with spouses suffering from addiction problems" with displaying "models of supportive behavior in relationships."

The film Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney, was noted as resonating among Saudis for its "exemplary illustration of heroic honesty in the face of corruption." And the Robin Williams-Al Pacino film Insomnia was singled out for its presentation of "respect for the law over self-interest." 

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