BROOKE GLADSTONE: The U.S. government's media war against terrorism has a new weapon -- pop radio. Norman Pattiz of Westwood One, one of the nation's largest distributors of commercial radio programming has been enlisted to create a new radio network that will spread the gospel of American values and pop culture all the way from Cyprus to Djibouti. The target audience is people under 25 who make up 60 percent of the population of the Middle East. Norman Pattiz joins me now, and he's brought along an English language demo tape. We'll play some of the clips and you can be the judge. Norman Pattiz, welcome to the show.
NORMAN PATTIZ: Thank you. It's nice to be here.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you've been quoted as calling this project "The New Station for the New Generation." You make it sound a little like an MTV spinoff.
NORMAN PATTIZ: Well, it's not an MTV spinoff, you know, in the strictest sense, but it does have some of the same qualities. Since this is a radio broadcasting service that's targeted primarily to the 25 and under audience, we want to use the kinds of tools that we know work in attracting that audience to build the largest possible following that we can. So we'll be using a mix of Arabic and Western pop music to deliver the 25 and under audience to our news and to our messages of public diplomacy.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: What sorts of research have you done?
NORMAN PATTIZ: We've done focus groups in Cairo, in Amman, in the Gulf, and the kinds of things that they want on that radio station are things like features on marriage, features on health, features on finance, features on computers and the Internet -- the kinds of features that you would expect an audience of 25 and under to be interested in, in just about any part of the globe! [AMERICAN POP MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
FEMALE ANNOUNCER SYLVIA: Hey, coming up in the next hour along with a lot of great music, of course, you'll hear some of our listeners' answers to the question of the day, a roundup of American editorial opinion plus a rundown on what's happening in clubs and concerts this week all across the region. And tonight at 10 don't miss U.S. Policy Roundtable -- a lively exchange of opinions from experts in Washington and the Middle East.
MALE ANNOUNCER: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week....
BROOKE GLADSTONE: You'll be presenting a mix of Middle Eastern music and American pop music. What sorts of Middle Eastern music and what sorts of American pop artists have you discovered in your research do translate well over there?
NORMAN PATTIZ: We're finding that the Arabic pop and the Western pop blend very, very well. You know artists like Hakim and Khalid-- in the Middle East blend very well with artists like Britney Spears and New Kids on the Block-- [CLIP OF EGYPTIAN SINGING STAR GEORGE WASOUF]
FEMALE ANNOUNCER SYLVIA: Egyptian singing star George Wasouf [sp?] and Kalem Aness [sp?] -- People Talk. Before that we heard New Kids on the Block, Iraqi singing star Kaddam Asaher [sp?] and we started things off for you with Desert Rose from Sting and Cheb Mahmi [sp?]. I'm Sylvia [sp?] and I'll be back with a really inspiring song from the one and only Mariah Carey right after we check the latest news.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It's interesting that you talk about Britney Spears and the New Kids on the Block but you never mentioned rap music, and you'd expect that rap would resonate in lands where there are so many young people and so much anger!
NORMAN PATTIZ: Well that may very well be the case that some of that might make its way in. By the same token, you know, to be real--realistic about this, we've got to do a bit of a Kabuki dance here -- we're operating in some areas on FM frequencies that we'll be getting through agreements with the local governments. We're not interested, you know, in de-stabilizing moderate Arab governments by putting on you know a-- [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Puff Daddy?
NORMAN PATTIZ: Not necessarily Puff Daddy but a lot of stuff that's criticized heavily right here in the United States!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: De-stabilize the governments or de-stabilize your relationship with the governments?
NORMAN PATTIZ: I think that there'll be less objection to our music than there may be objection to the kind of open and free dialogue, the example of a free press in the American tradition -- those are probably the things that are going to irritate some members of local governments than the music that we play. [NEWS RADIO MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
MALE ANNOUNCER: I Want to Know -- authoritative answers to your questions from experts all over the world. This question comes to us from Mohammed in Cairo. He says: I want to know why the U.S. is fighting a war against Islam. Well, Mohammed, perhaps the best expert to respond to your question is President Bush. In his speech to the U.S. Congress on September 20th he said that the U.S. is not fighting a war against Islam but against terrorists, and he addressed these words directly to Muslims all over the world.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well let's talk about some of the news and information content then. Getting beyond marriage and dating shows and personal finance, you'll be producing news, and you'll be producing news by local people but under the direction of people in the United States to some extent. How close is this to propaganda?
NORMAN PATTIZ: It's not propaganda at all. I am a governor on the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees all of our international broadcasting services -- Voice of America -Radio Free Europe - Radio Liberty - Radio Free Asia - The Marti's and several other services. [NEWS RADIO SOUND EFFECTS]
MALE ANNOUNCER: Every hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week --as news happens -- News of the Moment brings you the straight story direct from our comprehensive network of experienced correspondents around the world.
PAULA WOLFSON: Paula Wolfson [sp?], the White House.
FELIX RAMIREZ: Felix Ramirez [sp?] , Abijon [sp?].
LINDA CASHTON: Linda Cashton [sp?], Washington.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But when you talk about the Radio Marti's and the Radio Liberty's and so on, those clearly are restricted in areas, and we've heard complaints from them and about them during our War on Terror in that some of their reporting has been circumscribed. These are not necessarily paragons of the most open kind of information that will also provide dissenting voices to American policy.
NORMAN PATTIZ: Well you know that, that's in the ear of the beholder; I mean all one has to do is listen to NPR, Fox and CNN cover the same story to realize that you might get a different take from all 3 of those right here in the United States. Our mission is quite simply to promote freedom and democracy through the free flow of accurate, reliable and credible news and information about America and the world to audiences overseas.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well thank you very much.
NORMAN PATTIZ: It's my pleasure.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Norman Pattiz is chairman of Westwood One, and as a member of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors is a prime mover behind the Middle Eastern Radio Network set to launch in about a month.
FEMALE ANNOUNCER SYLVIA: Hey, it's a beautiful sunny afternoon all across the region. Hi there, I'm Sylvia and I've got one of the biggest hits for you of the year 2000. It's a collaboration between the English singer, Sting, and Algerian rise-star [sp?] Cheb Mahmi -- a song they sang at a concert together in Tunis just this past April. Here you go -- here's Desert Rose. [CLIP OF SONG DESERT ROSE]
BOB GARFIELD: Coming up, the courts hand big media a big win, and we rip the shroud of secrecy off of the World Business Review.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media from National Public Radio.