NEW YORK, NY, May 1, 2003-New York-based Bridges Network, Inc., announced today that it will launch Bridges TV, the first ever nationwide English-language Muslim television channel in North America. The expected launch date is summer 2004, depending on how quickly the network can gather the 10,000 paying members necessary to demonstrate public support. Bridges TV, which will be broadcast from Manhattan, will emphasize news stories, and talk shows, wholesome sitcoms, advice shows, children's programming and movies about Muslim life in America. Programming will mostly be created, since an English-language genre targeting American Muslims does not exist.
Bridges TV differentiates itself from such foreign language programming as Zee TV (Hindi), Prime TV (Urdu) and ART TV (Arabic), which are broadcast in foreign languages and focus on life experiences in foreign countries. These channels are popular among immigrant parents, but not with their U.S. born children. "Our channel is in English and about life in America. We want a Muslim child who grows up in America to be able to watch our channel and identify with the characters, or to be engaged by the dialogue of issues pertinent to him or her," said Amanat.
Amanat added that stories that shed light on the significant contributions of American Muslims to modern science, art and entertainment remain untold and will be a focus of Bridges TV programming. The network seeks to feature sitcoms that represent American Muslim family life. The Cosby Show, which portrayed a positive representation of African-American family life, is a model for such sitcom programming.
As the press kit from the website (DOC file) mentions, there clearly is a significant market. This is an intriguing and ambitious effort. In my silence of the media series, I made a case that Muslims should turn inwards rather than activekly try to engage the mainstream. I think that this new television channel will play a positive role in promoting Muslim-American life within muslim communities.
Of course, it's likely to be Sunni-centric - the "Mosques" link mentions that they plan to broadcast the tarawih prayer during Ramadan, and I somehow doubt that the lengthier Shi'a azaan (which explicitly reaffirms that Ali AS is the successor of Mohammed SAW) will get much airtime. Still, even if Shi'a such as myself are not really addressed, we will definitely share in the benefits of the rising tide of community awareness within and outside the muslims community in America and Canada.