From a small cable television studio housed in a block of industrial buildings in Pomona, some Kuwaiti college students have launched what they call a "video war against Saddam Hussein's propaganda machine."
The students say that their weekly cable television show, "Students for a Free Kuwait," is their best chance to convey to an American audience the horrors that are going on in Kuwait, their tiny, oil-rich homeland that was invaded by Iraq Aug. 2.
The show, which can only be seen in Pomona, Claremont, Ontario and Fullerton, features dramatic videotape smuggled out of Kuwait, but also has elements that clearly show it is the work of students: a melange of telephone interviews with unseen guests and discussions among students who serve as camera operators one week and on-camera guests the next.
It began on Pomona's Continental Cablevision television system Oct. 9, and is now seen in Claremont on Insight Cablevision and in Ontario and Fullerton on Comcast Cablevision as part of their public access programming.
While its current audience is relatively small, there are plans to expand into parts of Los Angeles and the Northeast section of the country, according to Randa Milliron, a Chaffey College broadcasting instructor and assistant community programming director of Continental Cablevision who co-produces and co-hosts the program. Continental provides most of the financial support for the show.
"This is part of fighting the Iraqis," said Fahed Bouresli, a 25-year-old student at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, who is the program's co-host.
Adnan Alsaleh, the Los Angeles coordinator of Citizens for a Free Kuwait which has supplied guests and videotape for the show, said he is unaware of any other weekly television show on Kuwait.
The students have appealed to the Kuwaiti government for financial assistance so they can fly in guests for the show instead of talking to them by telephone. The students also hope to do interviews in London and the Persian Gulf. Officials of the Kuwaiti Embassy in Washington referred inquiries about the show to Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a private group that promotes Kuwaiti interests.
Alsaleh said the show is "by no means a major TV program," but is helping the Kuwaiti cause.
During a taping session Tuesday the hosts placed an on-the-air phone call to the Los Angeles office of Amnesty International, where an official described Iraqi torture.
The most striking element of the set decor is its backdrop: a green, black, red and white Kuwaiti flag.
"We're calling it guerrilla television," said Milliron. The two co-hosts are assisted by several Kuwaiti students from Chaffey and Cal State Fullerton, most of whom still have relatives in Kuwait.
Milliron said Continental Cablevision is providing the equipment and pays for her time and that of director Jon Weiss. Estimates are that the show costs $5,000 a week to produce.
The donation is seen as part of the cable system's commitment to local programming.
Milliron said the Kuwaiti government and Citizens for a Free Kuwait have arranged interviews and supplied videotape because "they know that we're the only show that is doing this in the whole world, from what we understand."
Milliron said it is impossible to know how many people see the show, but it has elicited favorable phone calls from viewers even though "it's rare to get any response from programs on community television."
A Pomona resident, Terry Stemple, said she has seen four or five of the shows and they have made her more sympathetic to Kuwaitis. "They seem like victims caught in the middle," she said.