THE BATTLE FOR ARAB MEDIA

Since it came into existence in 1996 Al Jazeera Arabic Satellite Channel has played a critical role in shaping public opinion in the Middle East. Not only educating and informing but also provoking controversy and opening up debate on issues considered taboo prior to the era of Al Jazeera. The channel had successfully rumbled dictators and shaken their regimes. Most Arab dictators singled out Al Jazeera as the most dangerous enemy.

The dominance of the channel lasted some seven years until a new media beast appeared on the scene in March 2003. Al Arabiya posed a serious challenge to Al Jazeera and broke the latter’s monopoly on the news and political debate.

The latest channel to hit the airwaves was the Iranian and Syrian backed Al-Mayadeen, a new pan-Arab satellite TV station which launched broadcasts from Beirut, Lebanon, in June 2013.

The Beirut-based station Al-Mayadeen, hoped to rival Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. However, there is no evidence to suggest it has succeeded in denting the dominance of the two media giants. Like many other Satellite TV stations Al-Mayadeen remains a minor player.

The newest kid on the block will be Al Arab news channel, scheduled to launch during the first half of 2014. Al Arab News Channel, is headquartered in Manama the capital city of Bahrain. Jamal Khashoggi the US-educated Saudi journalist, columnist and author is the general manager and editor-in-chief of the new news channel. According to sources close to the channel, Al Arab “will soon be the main news source of choice for Arabs seeking credible news and information about the Middle East and the world beyond.Al Jazeera, by far the most famous Satellite TV Net- work, boasts 60-70m regular viewers worldwide. There is no reliable data to verify such statistics, but during times of crisis and upheaval, most people watch Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. It is a known fact that most of the news channels available in the region are financed by governments or special interests.

There are dozens of channels operating across the Arab World mainly in Egypt, Lebanon and Iraq. Several channels are Iranian funded and aimed at the Arabic street such as Al-Alam. A few are operating from London like ANB, Alghad and Al-Hewar.

In this months edition of the magazine Nehad Ismail reports on the clash of the Arab media titans.

This is an edited version of a longer article which appears in the January 2014 edition of the Middle East Magazine. To view the full copy, please subscribe by clicking HERE.