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.

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Al-Jazeera: A Culture of Reporting at in Layalina’s Perspectives

Layalina Productions publishes a new monthly “forum by academics and leading practitioners to share their views in order to explore key concepts in the study and practice of public diplomacy and Arab media.” The third author to contribute is Dr. Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera Network.

In the final analysis, TV per se is neither a bridge-builder nor a bridge-buster. I believe that the battle to close the gap between nations is often fought in the trenches of political action, not by TV programming alone.

The perception issue between American and the Arab worlds will also be determined by what actions Arabs will take not just in the Middle East but also in Washington, where important decisions are made which affect their region and the rest of the world.

The article is worth your time and can be accessed here.

The two prior essays were:

Ashraf Fouad, Smith-Mundt and Al-Hurra

In Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion (see review here), Steve Tatham interviewed Middle East media consultant Ashraf Fouad in 2004 on the creation of Al-Hurra, the U.S.-sponsored television station:

If you look at it from the positive side it is much needed and it is long overdue. They should get involved in the debate. But if you look at it from the negative side then it is unacceptable. How dare you come and air a channel like this to try and brainwash my people, when your law in the U.S. bans you from airing something like this in the U.S.? It is against the Constitution to broadcast a government channel in the States. How dare you say that we are sheep, and that you can show us this, but you can’t show it to the American people? …

While it’s not in the Constitution, the Smith-Mundt Act certainly does prevent Al-Hurra from being broadcast to the American public. Among the various reasons for revisiting Smith-Mundt, the perception it creates of our overseas broadcasts and the lack of transparency of the same is not a myth, even if the modern understanding for the purpose for the prohibition is.

See also:

U.S. Underestimated Hamas’ Strength

Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian election is not surprising. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice answered her own question of "why nobody saw it coming" when she said we do "not have a good enough pulse." Professor Eytan Gilboa suggests the admitted underestimation misses the point. Professor Gilboa is right when he says the Hamas victory "reveals a major strategic deficiency in the American design for democracy in the Middle East." The bigger point, the underestimation, is how did Hamas become such an attractive alternative to the Palestinians? The validity and designs of Hamas is not the real issue but a manufactured consequence of inputs leading to the election.

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