Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan has been throughout history a centre for the worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar. Ishtar, the goddess of love and beauty is now also the name of a television station that aims to promote the heritage and culture of Iraq's northern minorities. Ishtar TV transmitting from studios in Ankawa, a town near Erbil, broadcasts in Assyrian, Arabic and Kurdish. Future plans include the expansion of it's services to also include Turkish and English programs.
Saddam Hussein's Iraq lacked an independent media. The media in Iraq has experienced dramatic revival in recent years with the post-Saddam era seeing a media free-for-all emerge. Indeed, due to the lack of consistent law and order, Iraq for the time being, has the freest media in the entire Middle East and North Africa region. Ishtar now intends to allow the people of Northern Iraq to have an opportunity to voice their views on the future of Iraq. George Mansour, the General Director of Ishtar TV explains the rapid growth of the satellite television media in Iraq. "I believe it is a healthy phenomenon. The good [channels] will remain... In the first year after the fall of the regime [of Saddam Hussein], more than 100 newspapers appeared, and the number has now decreased. But the space is open for everyone... I think that it is good if someone can establish a satellite TV channel but, in the end, every channel must have its viewers. So programming must be structured to benefit the viewer."
Mansour, interviewed on Radio Free Europe highlighted the focus of Ishtar TV saying "I think the main issue is that the Arab and partly also Iraqi media have been focusing on the negative events happening in Iraq, on explosions, killing, looting, and so on. But they have not paid attention so far to the positive events that are really going on today in Iraq. I believe that now, in new Iraq we must all work together for its benefit, for the benefit of this Iraq that we were dreaming of and fighting for." Asked about the profile of the broadcast, Mansour described it as a "miscellaneous channel", elaborating: "there will be news; programs on arts, culture, and heritage; sports programs; family programs; emissions for children; as well as political programs."
The Globe, Erbil's English language magazine, also quotes Mansour. "We are trying to build the bridges between the nations in Iraq. And we are specifically trying to be a part of the civil society. Iraq was first built by all Iraqinnations living here. These people were ignored for many years. We focus on the rights of the minorities like Chaldeans and Assyrians. They have their history, and they made history. I believe that people will like us, because this is going to be professional. We are doing something different and are trying to cover all aspects we can. We know what the public wants to watch, and we are going to show them that".
The station features a highly automated production system incorporating the latest studio technologies. Cameras, mixers and lighting are all motorized or automated. There are no human camera operators inside the studio with the cameras controlled by the production staff via a joystick. Ishtar TV aims to be the leading television outlet in the Kurdistan Region and belives that high quality programing together with a superior technical quality will allow the station to realise that goal.
Discussions on the internet have raised the question whether Ishtar TV is a true independent media outlet or simply a propaganda machine of the ruling Kurdish parties in the north of Iraq. Although many television channels in Iraq are financed by political parties, Ishtar claims to be independent. Mansour states that Ishtar TV enjoys the financial support of "a few of our good people who believe that it is necessary to have a democratic and objective dialogue based on the people's legal right to disagree. We believe that the station is an obligation towards our country and people and that it is going to be distant from everything that obstructs our work that is moving towards the unity of our great nation."
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Southern Kurdistan is a geocultural region located in present-day Northern Iraq. The southern boundary of the present-day Kurdistan Regional Government known as the 'Green Line' passes roughly through the middle of the area in which most Iraqi Kurds live, leaving a number of Kurds outside the autonomous zone. On the other hand, this transitional region (which includes the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk) is ethnically quite diverse, as it includes the bulk of Iraqi Turkmen and Syriacs as well as large numbers of Sunni and Shia Arabs.
The Kurdish Autonomous Region was designated for three northern provinces in 1970.