NEW YORK, NY, April 30, 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, pending how quickly the
network can gather the 10,000 paying members necessary to demonstrate public
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.
The venture is spearheaded by
Muzzammil S. Hassan, MBA, a bank vice-president in New York and Omar S. Amanat,
founder of Tradescape, an Internet brokerage firm. Mr. Amanat sold Tradescape
last year to E*Trade (NYSE: ET) for $280,000,000 (million).
Amanat learned early on that
even at the height of his financial success on Wall Street, public perceptions
of Muslims prevented him from being fully accepted.
realized that the only way to undo misconceptions was to create our own media
forum from which our stories and culture would be shared with the world.
Other cultural groups have gained acceptance and increased understanding
through the forum of media. Why can't
Muslims do the same?"
Channels such as Telemundo
and the Black Entertainment Television network have appealed to cultural niche
markets. Bridges TV hopes to follow a similar model and create a diverse genre
of programming that members of the American Muslim community can identify with.
That group is composed approximately one-quarter each of South Asian,
African-American, Arab and Others.
Hassan noted that most
members of these groups are moderate Muslims who cannot identify with the
extreme stereotypes often depicted in Hollywood productions.
think they are not accurately portrayed," he said.
"Bridges TV gives American Muslims a voice and will depict them in
everyday, real life situations."
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.
Creation of a channel that
features American Muslims comes at a time when the media spotlight is
increasingly focused on this population. The channel hopes to "build bridges" of
understanding by providing Muslims an opportunity to express their views and
opinions about their faith and lifestyle.
Given the estimated eight
million Muslims living in North America, the channel is long overdue, according
to network officials. And studies
sponsored by Bridges TV have
found that American Muslims are willing to pay as much as $10 per month above
and beyond their current cable or satellite fee for the channel.
According to a Zogby 2000
survey, at an annual growth of 6%, the American Muslim population, which at
present makes a sizable market, is expected to double to 15 million in the next
Although targeted primarily
at a North-American Muslim audience, company officials anticipate that Bridges
TV will have some cross-over appeal to other Americans due to world-wide
interest about Islam and Muslim lifestyles.
The company successfully
completed its first round of fundraising last year, netting $1,000,000 (million)
in seed capital from investors. Most
of this initial money is being used to cover legal, filming, marketing and
licensing fees. With a pledge of
financial support from Amanat, the company's leading investor, the network's
next main milestone is securing the 10,000 paying monthly members necessary to
garner cable and satellite television support.
Initial projections are to
broadcast the channel four to six hours per day.
Pending advertising revenue and community support through monthly
subscriptions, Bridges TV hopes to evolve into a full-time nationwide cable
television channel. Their long-term
goal is to gain at least 10% of American Muslim households as monthly
So far the response from
potential subscribers has been overwhelming.
Over 1,000 paying members have signed up in just one month.
"An American Muslim
television channel is the greatest need of our times," said Amanat.
If American Muslims want to bring this kind of television programming
into their home, we need their support as members -the viability of this project
depends on American Muslims."