Muslim Network Expands To More Than 1 Million Homes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A first-of-its-kind Muslim-American television network launched a year ago has gone from being a premium pay channel to a basic-cable offering on several cable and satellite systems, broadening its reach from 10,000 to more than 1 million U.S. homes. Bridges TV, featuring Muslim-American lifestyle and cultural programming, also has been approved by the Canadian Radio & Television Commission to start broadcasting in Canada. Founder and Chief Executive Muzzammil Hassan said the transition in markets including Detroit, Chicago, Boston and Washington means viewers while channel-surfing between Fox News Channel and CNN are coming across the English-language network and its coverage of issues like the Dubai ports controversy. “That completely changes and gives America a completely different and unique perspective that America has never had available before,” Hassan said. “That has been the biggest driving factor.” Bridges TV, with a staff of 25 to 30, produces a daily hourlong newscast at its studio in suburban Orchard Park. Broadcasts also include children’s educational programming, current affairs, cooking and travel shows, soccer and cricket matches, documentaries and sitcoms. As a premium channel for $14.99 per month, virtually all Bridges TV subscribers were Arabs and Muslims, Hassan said, giving the sense the network was preaching to the choir rather than advancing its goal of bridging understanding of American and Muslim cultures. The network “really fills a void,” said Adnan Mirza, a director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “There’s a clear disconnect between popular American media and the Muslim audience. … Americans are increasingly interested in better understanding Middle Eastern cultures, and Muslim Americans want to be better understood. Bridges TV creates a public platform for this dialogue.” The Buffalo office of the FBI has taken notice and will use the network for an “FBI Townhall Meeting” May 15, during which an FBI agent will field on-air questions and comments from Muslim and Arab-American viewers. Over the last several weeks, the network has been added to the basic cable packages of WOW! Cable, which has a presence in Chicago, Detroit and Columbus; Buckeye Cable in Ohio; and Shrewsbury Cable in Massachusetts. Verizon FiOS, a broadband service, and Globecast Satellite reach markets in Boston, Dallas, Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C. Bridges TV will soon launch on Rogers Cable in Canada. A charter sponsorship by Ford Motor Co. has offset the loss of premium subscription revenue, Hassan said. In its hometown market of Buffalo, Adelphia Communications will keep Bridges TV as a premium channel. A spokesman, Thomas Haywood, cited a low subscriber rate.