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Libyan Al-Badil TV: A brief survey

BBC Monitoring

This new Libyan TV, which broadcast on NileSat, was thought to have been set up as an alternative to the state-owned first TV channel, hence the name Al-Badil, which means alternative in Arabic. But judging from its content, the word "alternative" seems to refer to "the alternative thinking or theory" as embodied by the Green Book or Third Universal Theory, which is a compilation of the principles set out by the Libyan leader as guidelines for his state of the masses and direct democracy.

The station introduces itself as "the intellectual and cultural channel to give culture another face" and its programmes focus largely on cultural, educational, historical and scientific issues. Yet, references to the Green Book are very abundant and virtually every programme shown is preceded and followed by a quotation from this green "Little Red Book". Excerpts from Al-Qadhafi's speeches are aired almost on a daily basis in a programme entitled "With the leader". Viewers! are also regularly treated to recorded discussions by local assemblies.

The programmes, currently running from 0900 to 1130 gmt and 1600 to 2200 gmt, do not start with the usual Koranic recitation but with the following quotation taken from the same Green Book: "The book which heralded the era of the masses will remain the sun which will guide all those who are seeking freedom". This line is used at the start and end of every daily broadcast.

Al-Badil does not seem to make its own documentaries but buys them ready made mainly from Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt. It is also obvious that the station does not shy away from airing some documentaries which, in Libyan revolutionary parlance, would have otherwise been construed as aimed at singing the praise of those who conquered, colonized and exploited other peoples, such as the Roman Empire. The programme on the legacy of the "Roman Empire in Africa", for example, highlighted the positive aspects such as the building o! f amphitheatres, irrigation systems and housing.

Its schedules include live interviews with Libyan artists, singers and comedians, as part of the Al-Badil Morning programme, in a format similar to that seen on British TV. The young female presenter of this programme sounds professional and self-assured and wears the traditional Muslim scarf but the colours are bright and modern. Female guests, however, are not necessarily required to wear the scarf. Her co-presenters are young men, clad either in a black suit or a brightly-coloured jacket with a modern tie. These men are by and large articulate and deliver with a clear enunciation and use a grammatically sound language but their tone is far from engaging.

Al-Badil Morning programme includes selected quotes from the Libyan press on local and, sometimes, international issues, but these are not accompanied by any comment. There is also a brief economic news report at the end of which the rates of the main Arab and foreign currencies and oil and minerals prices are displayed on the s! creen.

There is no consistency in the schedules as Al-Badil Morning programme does not always occupy the same slot every day. It is sometimes preceded by repeats of documentaries or recorded debates of local assemblies.

The second session, which starts at 1600 gmt, may also consist of repeats of historical, scientific or medical programmes which are almost exclusively foreign-made and dubbed in Arabic. On a typical day, viewers are treated to a revolutionary song praising Al-Qadhafi and the message is reinforced by archive footage showing him addressing crowds. Lest the message is lost on some of them, the viewers are reminded about the real meaning of democracy with yet another quote from the Green Book, followed immediately by a patriotic song on the homeland then another quote from the Green Book.

Libyan-made programmes are presented by young men, usually clad in a black suit and a modern tie, and the setting is rather sober and uninspiring. The stud! io debates often lack substance and seem to reflect only official poli cy. Consequently the host never challenges his guests with probing questions. More often than not the hosts are articulate but they are rarely engaging and their delivery tends to be mechanical and monotonous.

On several occasions, the station suddenly began airing a programme without any introduction or screen caption. This betrays, if anything, the station's lack of professionalism. Sometimes the screen goes dark, which suggests that the producers may have been grappling with technical problems.

In yet another display of amateurism, the start of a recording of Al-Qadhafi's meeting with Libyan students in 2002 was shown twice as the tape must have got stuck at the first attempt. Another of the Libyan leader's addresses was, on one occasion, unceremoniously interrupted in mid-sentence with a patriotic song.

Despite the colourful decors and the modern suits worn by its presenters, Al-Badil TV seems just another vehicle of propaganda for Al-Qadhafi's Third! Universal Theory and it fails to meet the expectations of a freer and more outspoken channel where viewers would be allowed to stray from the official line set in stone by the Green Book.

Source: BBC Monitoring research in English 23 Jan 08



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