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New Media

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TeachMideast.org
A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


Readings

This section contains full-text readings from a variety of sources. Many of these texts have never been offered online before. They represent a range of scholarly views and interests, and are intended to offer a more in-depth view of selected topics covered in this module. Please be aware that these texts may not be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the original copyright holder, as indicated at the head of each reading.

The readings listed in grey are currently unavailable, as we work toward renewing copyright permission from the publishers.


Satellite Broadcasting


  • Whys and Wherefores of Satellite Channel Ownership
    Naomi Sakr

    This chapter from the book Satellite Realms is a detailed and informative survey of the Arab satellite channels that began broadcasting in the early 1990s, with particular attention paid to the sources of funding for the networks and the reasons that led to their establishment. The selection makes clear that the reasons for the existence of these networks are squarely situated within the political context from which they spring. Nine broadcasters are discussed in five groups: Egyptian broadcasters, Saudi broadcasters, Lebanese broadcasters, the news networks Al Jazeera and ANN, and finally a Kurdish broadcaster. In the author's own words, the article examines "what has been revealed by a 'who, why, how?' account of channel ownership and control."

    The only major satellite network not considered in this 2001 article is the Dubai based Al-Arabiyya news network, which only began broadcasting early in 2003. A November 25, 2003 BBC report notes that Al-Arabiyya was launched specifically to compete with the Al Jazeera network, and was financed by "an investment of $300m by the Saudi-controlled pan-Arab satellite TV pioneer MBC, Lebanon's Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states…However, the shareholder composition is said to have altered since then, with unconfirmed reports that the Kuwaiti investment has been withdrawn." Each of the parent networks is discussed in some detail in this chapter.

  • The Battle for the Arab Mind
    Mohammed El-Nawawy and Adel Iskandar

    This chapter is from a book length study of Al Jazeera — without a doubt the most influential media development in the Arab world in decades. Though there were satellite networks (MBC, for example) broadcasting in Arabic before the debut of the Al Jazeera network, this was the first all-news network of its kind. The focus of this chapter, written by two media scholars, is on perceptions of the channel throughout the region. On one level, people in the Arab World are very sophisticated in their approach to media. The censorship and transparent propaganda efforts of media from both within and outside the region has made even the average person quite suspicious about bias in and the forces behind any media report. On the other hand, these suspicions have led to a culture of paranoia, documented in this chapter by the conspiracy theories regarding September 11 and Israeli involvement therein. In this environment, the authors argue that Al Jazeera has operated with remarkable freedom and is steadily becoming the most trusted media outlet in the region.

    Al Jazeera’s coverage of Israeli actions against Palestinians and its independent coverage of the war in Afghanistan at a time when no other major media outlet could get access have contributed to making it the medium of choice for ever increasing numbers, not only in the region, but also among Arabs in other parts of the world. World leaders as diverse as Colin Powell and Ehud Barak have granted the station's reporters interviews. Nonetheless, the channel has provoked the ire of nearly every government in the region, the United States and others. Though the article was published in 2002, new media develop at such a rapid pace that there are already some dated aspects of it. For example, though a fair amount of video from the channel is available on its web site, the live feed is no longer free, and is available on by subscription. On the other hand, Al Jazeera has also launched an English version of its web site, though the channel does not broadcast in English. While subscription charges are applied in much of the Arab world and for satellite subscribers in the West, much of the region can still capture the feed without charge if they have the satellite dish, particularly in the western parts of North Africa. Watch a clip from the documentary video Al Jazeera: Voice of Arabia to see some short bits of the station's programming. In addition, the reading "Whys and Wherefores of Satellite Ownership" provides a picture of satellite broadcasting region-wide.


Internet Technology


  • The Internet
    Jon B. Alterman

    This article by Jon B. Alterman addresses some of the challenges faced by Internet culture in the Arab World. He acknowledges that the culture has begun to take hold in the region, as evidenced by the circulation of computer magazines and publications, as well as the emergence of the Cybercafé. Connectivity remains expensive in most of the region, however, and thus is still very limited. He cites a report that, at the time of writing, indicated that less than three tenths of one percent of internet users worldwide were in the Arab world. There has also been great ambivalence about the internet as a tool for Westernization and as a vehicle for subversive politics and political organization. Countries such as Saudi Arabia have tried to control access by channeling all traffic through central government controlled servers. These two concerns remain valid in much of the region today, but the difficulty with the display of Arabic characters Alterman sites has more or less been overcome since the 1998 publication of this report. It should also be noted that Alterman does not discuss North Africa, with the exception of Egypt. As you will hear in the interview with Douglas Davis on the effect of the Internet in Morocco, that country makes very little effort to control Internet access. Though home based access is still very rare, the Internet Café is ubiquitous and, in fact, an internet culture has truly begun to develop there. Alterman is a program officer in the Research and Studies Program at the United States Institute of Peace.

  • Egypt's Virtual Protection of Morality
    Hossam Bahgat

    This article, by a prominent human rights activist and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, is an assessment of attitudes toward the Internet boom in Egypt. As in many countries both in and ourside the Arab world, there has been a great deal of concern for the impact of material made available via the internet on public morals. Bahgat gives a concise, yet detailed summary of press rhetoric on the subject, recent legislation and anti-vice law enforcment measures, particularly since 2002, when the internet sector in Egypt was liberalized and access began to reach significant numbers in the country.

  • Arab Online Advertising Remains Miniscule, While Gender Gap Remains Unbridgeable
    Abedalrahman Pharaoun and Judeh Siwady

    This is market analysis is published by the Arab Advisors Group, a research service and consultancy firm specializing in technology and media. We have included it here because it presents some interesting statistics and analysis on the makeup of the online population in the region. Particuarly strking is the "gender gap" and the fact that approximately 80% of those who are online on the internet are male. Watch this unit for more analysis of this phenemenon.

  • The Birth of a Media Ecosystem
    Yves Gonzalez-Quijano

    This article, from the 2003 second edition of New Media in the Muslim World deals with the impact of new media on the mass communications landscape of Lebanon. The essay begins with the observation that the "Permanent Book Exhibit" in Beirut has been replaced by a cybercafé of the sort that has become ubiquitous in the region. Though the Internet revolution in Lebanon came on the heels of a civil war and a period of legislatively mandated media consolidation, it and satellite broadcasting radically altered the media landscape. Gonzalez-Quijano notes that even established traditional publishers have increasingly turned toward digital publishing. He also discusses the linguistic shift in Internet publishing, noting that an increasing number of sites are in Arabic, which had not always been the case. Also discussed at length in the article is the frontierless character of the internet and its implications. For example, the author notes that fewer than half the internet sites operating out of Lebanon have the "lb" extension applied to sites whose domain is licensed through Lebanese registration authorities. In short, the article provides an excellent summary of the interaction between traditional media and new media in the Lebanese environment.

  • Islam in the Digital Age
    Gary R. Bunt

    This essay is the concluding chapter of Islam in the Digital Age. E-Jihad, Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments by Gary R. Bunt, lecturer in the Department of Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies at the University of Wales. In this book Bunt discusses the notion of authority in Islam, particularly in relation to jihad literally translated as "exertion" that ranges through all forms of Islamic activism. Particular attention is paid to how Islamic authority is manifest in cyberspace that defies national boundaries, allows for a great deal of anonymity, and can completely contravene traditional controls imposed by the state or traditional religious authorities, but from which large numbers of Muslims are still excluded due to the "digital divide" that keeps the costs of connectivity and hardware too high for many to afford. The essay also touches on numerous other issues such as the languages used in cyberspace, and ends in speculation as to how the cyber environment of Islam is likely to develop in the future. Readers seeking further elaboration of these issues would do well to consult the unit on Islam, and particularly the readings "Law and Society," "Islam and the Theology of Power," and the "The Spiritual Significance of Jihad" for context on how the issues have played in Islamic society outside the cyber environment; the materials in this unit for further discussion on the role of Internet in the Arab portion of the Islamic world; and the links list which provides links to the author's "Virtually Islamic" web site and many other relevant resources.




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