Summer 2010 issue of Arab Media & Society


The Summer 2010 issue of Arab Media & Society is available. While I’m sure all of the articles are worth reading, some caught my attention.

The Coming Contenders by Paul Cochrane.

There are 487 free-to-air (FTA) Arabic satellite TV channels broadcasting on Arabsat, Nilesat and Noorsat, in addition to the dozens of ailing terrestrial channels.The region’s media landscape has become saturated, as indicated by the drop in the number of new channels going on air, from 104 between August 2007 and March 2009 to just thirteen during the financial year to April 2010.

When it comes to pan-Arab satellite news channels, there has been no major entrant into the broadcasting arena since the Saudi-backed Al Arabiya, part of the MBC Group, went on air in 2003 in response to the Qatari-owned heavyweight, Al Jazeera.

There have certainly been attempts to contend with the two big players, yet the numerous Arabic-language news channels launched by governments in recent years to win hearts and minds, such as by Britain (BBC Arabic), Russia (Russiya Al Yaum), Iran (Al Alam), China (CCTV) and the United States (Al Hurra), have not drawn the same audience figures.

Tales of 9/11 – What conspiracy theories in Egypt and the United States tell us about ‘media effects’ by Stephen Marmura.

Of the national publics surveyed majorities in only nine identified al Qaeda as the perpetrator behind the attacks. In no instance did a majority agree on a possible alternative culprit. However, significant minorities in most countries named the US government. The top four in this category were an interesting mix; Turkey (36%), Mexico (30%), the Palestinian territories (27%), and Germany (23%). When responses from all national populations were averaged, 46% of those polled named al Qaeda as the perpetrator, 15% pointed to the US government, 7% named Israel, 7% cited another culprit, and 25% didn’t know. … The publics of Middle Eastern countries were more likely than those in other parts of the world to point to a 9/11 perpetrator other than al Qaeda. …

[W]hy do the conspiratorial beliefs in question sound true to so many people within the two national publics of interest? I contend that this question may be productively [addressed] through appeals to the main premises and lines of argument traditionally invoked by those defending strong versus weak models of media influence respectively. … [T]here are sound reasons for believing that the mass media in any given society may play either a weak or a strong role in shaping (specific) public perceptions and attitudes, depending upon prevailing social, cultural and political realities. At the same time, I will argue that the insights informing much of the research conducted in this area have often been limited by a relatively narrow focus on such issues as voter behavior, the impact of specific political campaigns, or other phenomena which foreground the importance of partisan politics

Is the Global Financial Crisis Aggravating Anti-Americanism in the MENA Region? What Arab Media Coverage Suggests by Dianna Turecek.

The global financial crisis has been a much discussed topic in Arab media in the past couple of years and in many blogs and discussion forums, in particular, it has been a magnet for criticism of US foreign policy. Coverage of the crisis in “traditional” outlets such as Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya, and many domestic newspapers is often factual and focused on economic issues, but many commentators in blogs and discussion forums link the crisis to, among other things, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to a perceived immorality with which the United States deals with the downtrodden and poor. Most of the arguments reinforce existing negative arguments about the United States and its role internationally and in the Middle East. Some say the global financial crisis represents the first concrete sign of the inevitable downfall of the United States, which the likes of Osama Bin Laden have been talking about for years.

Although it is not clear the extent to which criticisms of the United States over the global financial crisis in blogs, discussion forums, and to a lesser extent Arab media reflect or impact broader public opinion, the criticisms highlight the extent to which some in the region view even seemingly apolitical economic issues within the context of US foreign policy. They suggest a strong mistrust of US intentions and a continued decrease in respect for US power and influence. Many commentators say the financial crisis is further evidence that the United States has lost or is losing its ability to wage future wars, drive global economic growth and development, or promote its overall foreign policy goals. In response, the Arab world needs to identify ways to reduce or eliminate dependence on the United States and increase regional cooperation, many of them say.