Dr. Aaron Lobel is the founder and president of America Abroad Media (AAM), an international media non-profit based in Washington, D.C. AAM's mission is to empower and support local voices that convey universal values through creative content and media programming. Founded in 2002, AAM reaches large scale audiences through innovative partnerships with leading television hosts, media personalities and channels throughout the greater Middle East. Under Dr. Lobel’s leadership, AAM has reached a collective audience of well over 100 million people, producing feature documentaries on key international issues, entertainment and drama TV series, and educational public affairs programming that promote values such as critical thinking, women’s empowerment and pluralism. Sample programming includes a town hall on minority rights in Tunisia, a documentary on Islam and science in Saudi Arabia; and a documentary on religious freedom in America, co-produced with and hosted by a leading Turkish broadcaster.
In addition, Lobel served as the founder and executive producer of America Abroad, an award-winning long-form documentary radio program, airing from 2003-2018, distributed by Public Radio International (PRI) and broadcast on top public radio stations nationwide. Debuting in March 2003, at the beginning of the war in Iraq, with the program “Iraq: Context of a Crisis," each episode took an in-depth look at one critical issue in international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. Hosts included Madeleine Brand, Hari Sreenivasan, Ray Suarez, Marvin Kalb, Margaret Warner, Steve Roberts and Garrick Utley, among others. The final episode, "Fighting Extremism on Middle East Media," aired in October 2018.
In 2013, Lobel established AAM’s annual Awards Dinner, which recognizes individuals and organizations whose work exemplifies the power of media as a catalyst in shaping the views of citizens about the critical social and public policy issues of our time. Previous award recipients have included UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development H.E. Noura Al Kaabi, Founder of the Jordan Media Institute H.R.H. Princess Rym Ali of Jordan, Saudi director Haifaa Al-Mansour, Tunisian actress Hend Sabry, and award-winning directors Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, United 93) and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), among others.
In addition, Lobel spearheaded the launch of Screen Buzz, an innovative initiative bringing top Hollywood talent to the Middle East to build the capacity of local storytellers to create compelling, original Arabic drama and entertainment content. Mentors include, among others, Jack Bender, director, Lost (ABC), The Sopranos (HBO), and Game of Thrones (HBO), Greg Daniels, writer, producer and director, The Office and Parks and Recreation (NBC), The Simpsons (FOX) and Saturday Night Live (NBC), Mark Goffman, executive producer and showrunner, The West Wing (NBC), Sleepy Hollow (Fox), and The Umbrella Academy (Netflix 2019), and Jessica Mecklenburg, executive producer, Gypsy and Stranger Things (Netflix). Lobel’s successful efforts with major initiatives such Screen Buzz and AAM’s annual Awards Dinner have deepened relationships between the creative communities in the U.S. and Middle East.
Lobel is also the chairman and CEO of Black Birch Entertainment (BBE) a separate and complementary production company dedicated to “purpose-driven entertainment from, for or about the Middle East.” Among other content, BBE draws on the best talent and stories from AAM’s Screen Buzz workshops to establish co-productions between Hollywood partners and local creatives in the Middle East.
Lobel received his Ph.D. in International Affairs from Harvard University's Department of Government, where he was nominated and selected by students to receive Harvard's top teaching prize, the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Teaching Award. He has been a fellow at The Brookings Institution, the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, and Harvard University's Institute of Politics. Dr. Lobel serves on the Advisory Board for the Edward R. Murrow Center for a Digital World at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the International Advisory Council for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).