The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Saddam has disappeared, so has Hollywood
- Few tears shed for Iraqi TV

Gone are the endless songs praising Saddam Hussein. Gone are the toppled leaders’ taped speeches calling Iraqis to arms and promising them victory over invading infidels. But gone, too, are the Hollywood blockbusters that somehow made it on to television screens in Iraq sooner than elsewhere.

Few tears have been shed for the demise of Iraqi state television, which went off the air when US-led forces ousted Saddam nearly two weeks ago. “They broadcast poems about the leader. They told you what the President did. It was unbelievably boring,” said 21-year- old science student Tariq Mohammad.

There’s no doubt in his mind what he wants to see on any new national television network.

“We want channels that are free to show us what is going on outside the country,” he said.

The only things Iraqis seem to be missing on television are what they said were pirated versions of Hollywood films. “Youth TV was the first television in the world to show the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” 19-year-old student Ziad Ibrahim said, referring to the second instalment in the movie trilogy adapted from the book written by J.R.R. Tolkien. Youth TV, run by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, was also rare among Iraqi channels in that it offered programming with some entertainment value such as popular music shows and interviews. Now there are no national channels to watch even if Iraqis could turn on their televisions. Most of them have been without power for days or weeks. It is not only state television that is off the air. State radio has also stopped broadcasting and state newspapers which would hardly go a day without splashing Saddam’s picture on the front page are no longer printed.

Many Iraqis are keeping up with events through international radio stations such as the BBC, Iranian radio, Radio Monte Carlo or Radio Sawa, a US-sponsored pan-Arab station.

Those who have power, which generally means those using private or looted generators, can tune in to Iranian television news channel al-Alam or watch a US-British channel called Towards Freedom, which recently broadcast speeches by US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Neither seems very popular. “We only watch this Alam station, but it is biased,” said engineer Saleh Mehdi, who could not receive a clear signal to watch Towards Freedom.

Email This Page