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US Lawmaker Calls for Investigation of US-Funded Broadcasts to Middle East

A U.S. lawmaker has called for oversight hearings and an investigation of the federally-funded Alhurra television station which broadcasts in Arabic to the Middle East.

Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has asked the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs to initiate a investigation into allegations the station has aired reports that she says were intended to incite opposition to U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Middle East.

On Sunday, the CBS television network program 60 Minutes cited lapses in programming by Alhurra that included broadcast of a Holocaust deniers conference in Iran, a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who is considered a terrorist by the United States, and an anti-Israeli comment made by a guest on a talk show.

In a statement, the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors defended Alhurra as a relevant and objective provider of news to the Middle East.

The statement said the CBS broadcast Sunday distorted facts about the network's audience research and gave credence to "less relevant opinion polls."

The BBG also rejected claims that Alhurra has displayed a pattern of anti-Israel rhetoric.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the Voice of America and other U.S. government-funded broadcasters.

A researcher of Arab public opinion, University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami, told 60 Minutes that Alhurra ranks near the bottom of what Middle East Arabs watch and has little effect on Arab public opinion.

In an article today, The Washington Post newspaper says the station has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission.