Americans have a knee-jerk reaction when they see Saddam Hussein’s speeches and footage of American POWs from the Iraq Satellite Channel aired on U.S. networks: What do you mean, there’s a TV channel I can’t get?
Don’t worry, you can add the Iraq Satellite Channel to your 500-channel universe with a little tinkering. Iraqi television is rebroadcast onto the Net by the Dutch service DSL-TV, in both Real and Windows Media formats. The catch is that unlike ish.com’s Al Jazeera stream from Germany, DSL-TV tries to limit its service to computers inside the Netherlands as part of its terms of service.
But for the savvy Net surfer, that’s an easy problem to get around. Like Web browsers, streaming media players allow you to use what’s called a proxy server to make your computer’s requests take place from inside the Netherlands—or from whatever country you prefer. (Baghdad blogger Salam Pax uses this technique from inside Iraq to reach blocked Web sites and send untraceable e-mail to his fans.) Hackers who support the free, anonymous flow of information host publicly available proxies from all over the world, and lists of them are available on sites such as Public Proxy Servers.
To watch the Iraq Satellite Channel on your computer, click through the list of proxies at Public Proxy Servers until you find one located in the Netherlands. Jot down its IP address (which looks something like 12.345.67.89) and port number (probably 80 or 8080). Find the option to set a proxy on your Web browser. (On the latest version of Internet Explorer for Windows, select Internet Options -> Connections -> LAN Settings.) Plug in the IP address and port number. Save the settings, then open the DSL link. Click on the streaming link for the Iraq Satellite Channel. If your software is fairly new, Internet Explorer will pop up the video in a separate panel and begin playing it. Or you may have to separately set the HTTP proxy on your Windows Media Player or Real player, each of which has its own Preferences or Options menus. I tuned in with both Windows Media on a PC and with RealOne on a Mac. Two caveats: You’ll need a broadband connection, and if your local network has a firewall or VPN, you may get error messages instead of video.
Iraqi TV looks like local-access cable, or at least state-sponsored local-access propaganda. It’s not all Saddam, all the time, despite the frequent canned footage of him. Some of the fare is strikingly similar to American television: news reports, speeches, music videos (some with lots of guns in them), and poignant interviews with big-eyed children in hospital beds. There are frequent updates on the war. Last time I checked, Iraq’s Minister of Information, Muhammad Said as Sahhaf, was speaking from a podium cluttered with microphones. Last night, I saw the notorious photos of American prisoners.
Viewers be warned: American TV networks make daily decisions on what to show or not to show their viewers. On the Internet, it’s easy to route around those decisions. If blogging makes everyone a journalist, then tricks like this one make everyone their own news producer. If you’re squeamish, or if you’re the relative of an American soldier, you may not want to watch images that the TV networks have deemed unfit for American audiences. But if you want to narrowcast the Iraq Satellite Channel to yourself to see what’s being fed to the Iraqi people during this war, you can.