2. Theoretical basis- Globalisation and Media
2.1 Global communication syste
3. Development of Media in the Arab World
3.1 Print Media
3.3 Satellite Television
4.1 Internet in the Arab World
6. Global Influence on Media and Society
6.1 Problems in the Arab Societ
6.2 Media Development models in the Arab World
6.3 Responses to the challenge of Globalisation
I would like to take a look at the media system of the Arab world, its development and the local and global factors that influence it.
Therefore I will start with different theories that question the importance of communication and media for globalisation and vice versa.
Connected with that is the question of the existence of a global communication network or global media. I will first say something about their characteristics and will than try to apply this to the media in the Arab world to see in how far they are part of a global media evolution.
I will give an overview over the evolving of mass media in Arab countries in the last 50 years, with concentration on print media, television and Internet.
I won’t say much about radio, because it is more a leisure time activity to settle around a radio set, than the medium having a particular political or social importance besides this.
In the 50s and 60s radio was the most used medium for people in the region, especially if they wanted to get international news and it was a medium that did not require special skills. People did not even have to be able to read to use it.
But with the mass introduction of television during the next 20 years, radio lost its importance for social change.
I will later on say something about censorship arrangements concerning print media, television and Internet, before I will try to describe the influence media had on society and the influence global changes had on the media system in the Arab world.
I use “Arab world” or “Arab media” as summarizing terms, which does not mean countries with an Arab population and their media systems are homogenous entities. I tried not to describe every system separate and look at every country but search for differences and equal factors on a more general level to be able to analyse them in a global context.
2. Theoretical basis- Globalisation and Media
There are two different kinds of views concerning the importance and the potential of communication for globalization. Those who believe in its positive affects, see the primary point of the potential in the fact, that global communication is the basis for global economy, and in this field especially the electronic communication.
Mass media, first and foremost the Internet, are seen as motor to globalization.
The problem with that thought is though, that capital and technology are expanding way faster than the development of trans-cultural communication. That confuses the action-reaction chain of this theory.
Global media only produces raw material that gets domesticated into the different national cultures, but the global communication-network, if such a thing exists, is controlled by industrial nations, whose press agencies develop this raw material and send to every media in the world. Some might call this „cultural imperialism“.
The theory of cultural imperialism contains four elements. First the exportation of media contents, for example television programs and news, secondly foreign ownership of media in third world countries and with that control over the outlet of these media. Third is the transfer of dominating broadcasting norms and media commercialism into these countries and last the invasion of a capitalist worldview upon indigenous societies.
This theory sees a potential linkage between foreign policy interests, capital expansion, media infrastructure and media content and wants to disconnect the global capitalist system from media to have them reach autonomy.
It is questionable in how far one can accuse western media of bringing a capitalist worldview into the societies in the Arab World. It did probably already exist there, because these societies are not isolated from the rest of the world, but the argument of transferring dominant norms of journalism is quite undisputable, because studies show that Arab media has tried to adopt a western aesthetic in their own productions for some time. This goes along with the adoption of western standards for journalism as well.
2.1 Global communication system
The first question in this discussion is though, if there is such a thing as global communication and what its characteristics would be.
It would contain world-wide reception of international programs. This happens mostly when there are events that are interesting for societies all over the world. The coverage of sport events like the Olympic Games or political highlights like the opening of the Berlin wall and the signing of the Oslo peace accord were covered throughout the world. But such events are rare and therefore only a weak evidence for globalization in media development.
Other characteristics are the development of media via satellite and the development of media markets in third world countries, also global information network via Internet and news coverage from foreign countries.
But news is problematic because it always gets evaluated through local and national ideologies. Therefore various interpretations from the same event are possible. Media coverage is, next to that always influenced by news value and news factors.
Western news agencies are the dominant sources for news and their decision is based on the question which events are interesting for a western audience.
Assumptions are, that the probability of an event being processed as news increases with the journalist’s perception of geographical, political or cultural proximity, with the surprise element of the event, with the presence of conflict or disaster, or with a high degree of elite involvement or ethnocentrism.
So instead of a pluralist view, the images represented in the news are all too often only fragments of what is happening in the world and move in a one-way pattern from West to East.
Those are not the only problems that imply that a global communication may not exist. Authoritarian systems, especially in the Arab world, sometimes prohibit direct reception of foreign programs.
But even if the reception is possible that does not mean it has a large audience. Foreign media are in competition to their local counterpart, which have a much better knowledge about their audience needs.
It is also questionable if global communication via mass media can set off a social change in these parts of the world. The media are mostly used by an elite. This is the part of the society which might not be the one to gives an impulse for social change, simply because it is a rather small group of people, who live in a financially and politically safe environment.
The argument, that foreign media bring social change by reporting about the situation in a certain country from a much more objective outside view, different from the coverage by the regional media, that in most cases are governmental controlled and part of a political domesticated media markets, is not necessary valid. Because the coverage about the situation in a country outside Europe or North America mostly only happens when there is a crisis. Besides this, it is not continuous. Reports every couple of years with nothing in between are not enough to set off any social change. Therefore it is highly questionable if it is possible to achieve world wide acceptance of democracy and human rights via media.
Some see potential in mass media operating on a global level for helping the emergence of a global village and to lessen social conflict. Others see media destroying democracy and every potential for democracy because the media are controlled by an elite that is repressive to diversity and change. This elite operates not only in the third world countries where it controls the access to media by the population. In the industrial nations, where most of the international media content is produced, an elite owns media through merging several companies. This concentration of ownership on few companies produces a conservative content that hinders change, tries to impose western values on its recipients all over the world, is rather discriminating concerning minorities and tries to reinforce the status quo.
3. Development of Media in the Arab World
Media development in the Arab world has, for the last century, been in tune with social, political and economic changes.
Increasing education, urbanization, free-market policies and technological transfer opened the region for new forms of media.
3.1 Print Media
The sector for print media started to develop at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century on a big scale. Newspapers appeared in Cairo, Baghdad, Algier, Tunis, Damascus and other bigger cities in the Ottoman Empire.
Over the years there always existed some expatriate press, like the journal al-Urwa wa al-Wuthqa which was published by Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh in Paris. But the majority of print media was printed and published in the Arab countries.
Like in Europe and North America domestic journalism was in most cases linked to parties or at least certain political ideologies and therefore played an important part in the public political debate. Problem was although, that many members of the society were illiterate and could not read what the papers wrote about their political or social situation.
During the 50s and 60s when a lot of the countries in the Arab World became independent, a new kind of media arose. Following the development in Egypt in 1952 for example the “new” press had the first priority to supported the new ruler and reflect the official view of the government. This development brought along censorship on a much higher level as well. Newspapers which did not follow the given direction were closed and prohibited. One of them was a paper called al-Misri which was closed in 1954 because it was suspected to be close to the Wafd-Party.
Right from the start Egypt had a much more developed media system then other countries in the region, which made it easier for the Egyptian government to start and promote its views in other countries as well. Later they tried to achieve the same with radio and television broadcast.
During the chaotic time of the civil war in Lebanon, a significant degree of writers went into exile, many of them to Great Britain. Until today a great number of publications, especially such being founded by Lebanese refugees are being published in Europe (London and Paris).
These publications thrive on the freedom their European base allow them and are available to varying degrees throughout the Arab world. They basically form the liberal opposite to the, in most cases state controlled, print media in the Arab countries.
But of course the factor that they rely on subsidies from Gulf States or Saudi-Arabia limits their freedom a good bit.
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