Bridges TV Finds Untapped Market: Eight Million American Muslims
By Julie Johnson

The 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 2004.
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 movement.”
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.”


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