Iraqi television channels such as Al-Fahya, Al-Iraqiya and Al-Furat often broadcast images of conflict, but some believe the time is ripe for a softer approach that offers a broader view of human activity.
A newly established Iraqi channel, Al Madar TV, began broadcasting in Abu Dhabi on April 1. The private channel, which is owned by Tigris Media and broadcasts on NileSat, was established in cooperation with twofour54, the government-backed media free zone.
Alaa Makki, the general manager of Al Madar TV, believes that providing audiences with non-political programming is essential, especially for those in Iraq.
"Many Iraqi channels at the moment don't focus on light-hearted topics," he says, adding that "a lot of channels tend to focus only on political news and political viewpoints, topics that tend to separate the people".
On a recent visit to their vast studio in the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi, presenters rushed to meet with makeup artists, editors made final tweaks to programmes and sound stages were being prepared.
The channel aims to provide viewers, both in Iraq and around the region, with programmes that are fully representative of the country and its culture. Unlike much Iraqi programming, which tends to emphasise politics, Al Madar TV has shifted its focus to something a little lighter.
Instead of stories about the deteriorating state of Iraq and ethno-sectarian factions, Al Madar TV attempts to show viewers what kind of country Iraq was before the conflict began, as well as what it could be in the future.
"Iraqi channels often talk about bombings, clashes between people, as well as the separated and biased political parties," Makki says, adding that "they are forgetting that we must provide something enjoyable, something comforting and something which must be educational, historical and classical, and that is exactly what Iraq is all about".
Al Madar will soon broadcast shows it has produced on history, fitness, comedy, music, sport and youth culture.
Makki says it is important for his team to promote the theme of unity.
"Al Madar's purpose is to gather all of us together … we don't focus on a certain topic, we don't focus on a certain gender, nor do we focus on a certain religion," he says. "Al Madar is for everyone."
The fact that many nationalities are represented in the studio helps reflect a sense of togetherness. "We mixed different nationalities in our studios and programmes because we don't want to separate anyone," he says. "Everyone is equal."
Makki says that news does not always have to be about politics, which tends to divide people and engenders fanaticism.
"We provide news ... about heritage and history, subjects that people have now forgotten," he says.
"News doesn't necessarily have to be about politics, war, killings and bloodshed."
The programmes include Sabah Al Madar, a morning talk show, Ghanewa Wa Khabar, an entertainment programme, and Garageea, a show that takes a humorous look at everyday life.
Fitness, Makki believes, is also an important part of the station's programming.
"How can the love of sport return, or perhaps develop in Iraq and for the Iraqi people?" asked Makki. That was the starting point for a show called Hawa Al Mala'ab.
"The show will look at the fitness movement and how it is functioning in Iraq at the moment … not only that, but what is required for people to begin to take notice and grow their passion for sports," he says.
There will also be a programme called Shabab Zone, about young people in Iraq and the UAE and the issues they face.
"This programme will focus on their minds, what they are doing and more importantly, what they would like to achieve," says Makki. Half of the programme is taped on the street and on university campuses, and the rest, including a discussion forum, is filmed inside the studio.
Rounding out the programming is Al Malaf, a platform for discussing current affairs, and Madar Al Sahafa, a show that looks at issues in Iraq and around the world that also has a daily news component. There is also a programme called Iqtisad.com, which looks at the economic state of Iraq and the Arabian Gulf region. International investment in Iraq has grown in recent years, and the programme aims to provide viewers with insights into Iraq's economic development and provides advice for those considering investing in the country.
"Those who [make] investments in Iraq can quickly have growth and succeed. But what do you need to do to have a successful investment? This is a crucial question that we will look at," says Makki.
Al Madar TV chose twofour54 because of its reputation as a modern and successful media company.
"We found Abu Dhabi Media Zone Authority as one of the best in the world," says Makki.
"They are ahead in many aspects and have respected studios, world-class content and they also show great support for our channel to succeed," he says.
Wayne Borg, the chief commercial officer of twofour54, believes that support for companies eager to base their organisations in Abu Dhabi is vital.
"Our role is to help facilitate," says Borg, adding that "we also want to support companies that will contribute to Abu Dhabi." Borg says an organisation that invests in its staff is especially attractive. "We like to work with organisations that make significant contributions for staff in terms of training," he says. "It's all about how these companies integrate with Abu Dhabi."
Makki says their original programming will begin within a month. The channel, which is supported by a large production team from various parts of the region, enables the network to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Al Madar TV is the latest addition to the international news and entertainment networks that work in cooperation with twofour54, including CNN, Sky News Arabia and FOX International Channel.
What distinguishes Al Madar TV, Makki says, is its unique mission to connect people and organisations.
"At the moment there is a great separation when it comes to Iraqi channels because they are all going in different directions," says Makki, "One channel wants to represent this, while another channel wants to represent that. However, what we are trying to do here is unify everyone."
Yasmine Al-Kuttab is a former editorial intern at The National.