TV network for US Muslims targets 2004 Summer launch

MUMBAI: Ever since the events of 9/11, Americans have been wary of the Muslim community. Bridges TV hopes to act as a connection point between Muslims residing in the US and the rest of the population.

Billed as the first network dedicated to the eight million US Muslims, Bridges TV has targetted a launch for next year. The tagline for the channel is Where American Muslims Come Home. Muzzammil Hassan developed the idea and the business plan for Bridges TV.

The twin purposes behind Bridges TV are to celebrate the rich diversity and talents of American Muslims and to build bridges of understanding and friendship between American Muslims and mainstream Americans.

The network is in the process of gathering 10,000 paying members who are necessary to demonstrate public support. Its plan is to broadcast four to six hours of programming in its initial year of operations. In its fourth year it envisages becoming a 24-hour network like Black Entertainment Television.

Its shows will cover the different genres be it children, news, sports, entertainment or women centric programmes. Children can expect Muslim cartoons, Barney/Sesame style educational show, Quran lessons, animated Quran stories and fables. News shows will deal with events taking place in Muslim countries as well as domestic news impacting American Muslims.

The need for such a channel is acutely felt. While some foreign language programming is available on satellite such as ART in Arabic, PTV in Urdu and Zee TV, their shows and news deal with issues back home. Research indicates that these channels appeal to the immigrant parents, not to their US born children or indigenous Muslims.

Without coverage of domestic issues, these channels are not relevant to Muslim life in America. Research also indicates that Muslims most desire a talk show that deals with issues that impact their daily existence.

The management team includes Ken S who has two decades of engineering and operations network experience in television networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Discovery. Bridges TV claims to have received positive feedback from US cable industry heavyweights such as Time Warner Cable, Echostar, AT&T Broadband.

Besides entertaining and educating US Muslims, the channel also aims at correcting misconceptions Americans have about Islam. For instance, last year, on Fox News Bill O'Reilly had gone on record on his show The O'Reilly Factor saying, "Islam is the religion of our enemies."

One of the channels endorsers is boxing legend Muhammad Ali. He said, "We need to let the rest of America get to know us the way they would get to know their next door neighbour, seeing us in natural situations at work and at play. We think Bridges TV will help make this happen. We hope that this venture will be very successful - for the sake of all Americans."

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