2ME’s Iraq war coverage | radioinfo

2ME’s Iraq war coverage

Friday 04 April, 2003

Arabic speaking commercial narrowcasting network 2ME (Australia) has a unique view of the Iraq war because it is one of the few Australian radio stations which broadcasts 24 hours a day in Arabic.

While English speaking reporters are being thrown out of Iraq, two of 2ME’s regular correspondents continue reporting on the hour by satellite phone from inside Baghdad.

Via normal phone lines, when they can get a line in, the station is also broadcasting eyewitness reports from relatives of listeners
who give reports from around Iraq. The station’s other correspondents are in Kuwait, Tel Aviv, Gaza and Amman.

2ME is running updates on Iraq every fifteen minutes from 4:30 AM until midnight, along with local and international news briefs on the half hour and, complete international news and reports every hour of the day.

The station is heard on AM 1638 in Sydney from Homebush Bay and on the same AM frequency in Melbourne and Adelaide. It is also available throughout the rest of Australia and NZ via TARBS satellite on radio channel 110 (via Pan AM Sat 8).

“Our reporters in Iraq are trying as hard as they can to give an ‘as they see it happens’ direct report,” 2ME’s proprietor Sid Merhi told radioinfo.

“They are also moving around as much as they can, with their safety obviously at the forefront of their thinking. Their
information is coming mostly from Eastern Sources and from being on the spot. We then try to cross reference the Eastern Source with the Western Source to try and form an accurate analysis of the situation.”

“We are also calling old listeners who, for whatever reason, returned to Iraq, and relatives of listeners who still reside in Iraq. We conduct dual talkback, live from effected areas. One contact,
‘Shakky’ took us through a twenty minute session live as a bombing campaign was taking place in the heart of Baghdad.”

“Our resources have been stretched to their limit with many of our
Journalists having little sleep in an effort to stay in touch with
everything that's happening,”
says Merhi.

2ME (Australia) commands 90% of all Arabic radio consumption according to Quadrant Research in 1999 and TIB research in November 2002. The Arabic language is NSW second most spoken language next to English.

2ME (Australia) is also a "partner station" with the BBC Arabic service
which broadcasts twenty four hours a day free to air into every country in the Middle East and 2ME reporters file frequent reports into London on anything which may occur in the Southern Hemisphere, particularly
Australia. 2ME employs 37 full time and casual staff.

“If a big story breaks overseas from here such as the Iraqi Ambassador being kicked out and the Embassy closed, we usually file the report live to air on BBC Arabic.”

“We think out listeners are receiving the most accurate coverage of the events in Iraq as they unfold through us. Sadly, whenever trouble breaks out in the Middle East particularly in Israel and Palestine (where we have two permanent reporters)our listenership
peaks.”

“Right now we are receiving a lot of feedback from Iraqi listeners in
Australia particularly from Melbourne where a large Iraqi population
resides. Most don't seem to like Saddam Hussein but by the same token the US does not seem to very welcome in Iraq either,”
says Merhi.

“The general consensus also seems to be that Australia is unnecessarily involved. On Tuesday we ran a talkback session on ‘accurate reporting’ and how do we know which medium to believe? Interestingly enough many comments they we received said that eastern journos should have been allowed to be ‘embedded’ with the Western media, which may have assisted in the balancing act.”

2ME (Australia) is now talking with a number of relief agencies in an urgent effort to see how cash and supplies can be raised from this end to assist those who have been war ravished.

In 1998 when Bill Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq, 2ME (Australia) along with Care Australia raised $113,000 in a one day radio appeal which saw listeners from all over Australia contribute.

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