Bridges TV Finds
Untapped Market: Eight Million American Muslims
By Julie Johnson
country’s only English-language television
network for Muslim Americans, Bridges TV began in
response to a groundswell of community support.
More than 50,000 people sent in $10 checks each
month, enabling them to launch programming in late
Founder and CEO Muzzammil Hassan got the idea for
Bridges TV listening to the radio on a road trip
with his wife in 2001. Driving through Detroit,
Michigan, Hassan grew upset by broadcasters equating
Muslims with terrorists. After hours on the road,
his wife told him he should start his own station.
There are an estimated eight million Muslims in
the United States, but they represent a largely
untapped consumer market.
“Every day on television we are barraged by
stories of a ‘Muslim extremist, militant,
terrorist, or insurgent,’” says Hassan.
“But the stories that are missing are the
countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress,
diversity, service and excellence.” Hassan
says foreign-language channels broadcast from Muslim
countries appeal primarily to immigrant parents
and do not adequately address the issues and unique
culture of English-speaking American Muslims.
They were thrilled by the support of both Muslims
and non-Muslims as they traveled around the country
pitching their idea. “The remarkable thing
about Bridges TV is that it was started by the people
who actually wanted it,” says Program Director
Jamilah Fraser. “It’s a true grassroots
On November 30, 2004, the Buffalo, New York-based
Bridges TV debuted with their original news broadcast
program, Bridges News, the only news program anchored
by two Muslim hosts.
The response was overwhelming, says Fraser. “People
started calling cable networks and telling them,
‘I want Bridges TV.’”
The network offers a variety of lifestyle and cultural
programs, from history and cooking to health and
children’s programs – all with Islamic
values at their core.
Though all their programs share values central to
Islam, Bridges TV programs “are not evangelical,”
Fraser says. “There are so many ethnicities
in Islam,” she says, that programs must appeal
to a broad audience. Their main requirement, she
says, is that they are family-friendly.
Bridges TV (www.bridgestv.com) is now available
in the United States and Canada (where there are
an estimated three million Muslims) through satellite
services that carry cable networks.
The name of the network – Bridges TV –
is the heart of its mission: to bridge the gap between
American Muslims and other Americans and to create
a sense of understanding of what it means to be
Muslim in America after Sept. 11, 2001.
“We see ourselves connecting not only Muslims
but also others to the culture and lifestyle,”
says Fraser. Finally there are programs portraying
Muslims in a real light, as your next door neighbors.”