The fat lady probably
has yet to sing, but this Iraq War is over as far as satellite TV is concerned.
Not the coverage, of coursea percentage of the TV news is devoted to the
continuing mayhembut the special journalistic regime, the talking heads
crowned with tin hats, the near round-the-clock attention, and the re-deployment
of resources that these called for. Which means that it's time for the retrospective.
The Arab Media Summit, with which this issue leads, might have seemed like an
obvious starting place for self-examination, and indeed both UAE information minister
Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and CNN International's managing director.
Chris Cramer addressed what they saw as the failures and challenges of satellite
TV in their keynote speeches, reproduced here. But TBS was more impressed by the
curious disjunction between reality and the Summit itself. "Arabsats? What Arabsats?"
asked managing editor Humphrey Davies as he pondered the conspicuous absence of
the Arab channels on the podia.
As at most Summits, however,
as much went on in the corridors as in the meeting rooms, and in the margins,
TBS was able to interview Abu Dhabi TV's Ali Al-Ahmed and Nart Bouran and get
an overview of their war in Iraq and future prospects, as well as Jihad Khazen
on the LBC/Al Hayat joint venture, which had its first experience on the ground
during the war. We were also able to catch some out-of-the-region visitors: Riz
Khan, formerly of CNN, shared some of his plans with us, and Danny Schechter,
one of Western TV's most committed critics and a panelist at the Summit, provided
us with a thought-provoking essay-"Media Can Serve the Needs of Peace"-from the
Israel-Palestine Journal, distributed at the conference.
With Al Jazeera nowhere
to be seen in Dubai, TBS zipped down to Qatar for a visit to their headquarters.
Unbeknownst to us, a major management change was in the offing (see Stop
Press: Al Jazeera Gets New Manager), but we made good use of our time talking
to editor-in-chief Ibrahim Helal and reporter Amr El-Kahkythe latter just
back from a second stint in Iraqand with the channel's then manager Adnan
Sharif. Earlier, in Cairo, TBS had been able to catch the channels best-known
investigative journalist, Yousri Foda. Together, these interviews provide some
fascinating insights into the channel's origins and past and how it sees itself
and is seen by others now; while the "Stop Press" story may give some
of idea of where it hopes to go. Whatever Al Jazeera's future, few will dispute
that the Arab 24-hour-news satellite channels have changed the picture on our
Whether that change has
been good or bad, however, is disputed. In "Arabsats: the Debate," TBS brings
together writers with views that run from almost total condemnation, as in the
case of Abdel Moneim Saeed of Al-Ahram's Center for Political and Strategic Studies,
through nuanced appreciation, as in Marc Lynch's piece from Foreign Affairs, to
a vision of the Arab satellite channel as the most effective instrument of political
change in the region, as Palestinian-American scholar Hisham Sharabi would claim.
Salih Al-Kallab of Al Arabiya provides a channel-based perspective and rounds
out the debate by wondering how anyone could satisfy all the differing agendas.
Dubai is indubitably the
Middle East's media hub, and it had more than the Media Summit to offer. CNBC
Arabiya, the newest Arabsat and the first devoted to round-the-clock business
news, launched in the summer from Dubai Media City. TBS talked to CEO Zafar Siddiqi
and program director Ward Edmonds, as well as to two presenters of the new channel's
fare, Lena Sawan and Cyba Audi, and picked up some of the excitement that goes
with venturing into new territory and getting good feedback too. In the unlikely
event that the region ever becomes "less political" in its approach to the news,
this may be where people turn for a different approach.
Leaving the Arabsat-Arab
Gulf nexus, "The Region and the World" looks at developments in Egyptwhere
pay-TV is losing millions to piracy, Orbit is launching direct-to-home broadcasting,
Nilesat claims expanded viewership, and ERTU made a belated pitch for Egyptian
TV film products at Mipcom in Cannes. It goes outside the region too: Oliver Da
Lage's translated "CNN, French-style" on the proposed 24-hour news channel in
French both gives the background to this important demarche and signals
TBS's interest in expanding its own language range; also in this section is Bassam
Tayyara's article on the new Arab satellite media stars, translated from Arabic.
In the same section, Chris Forrester reviews developments at "behemoth" Discovery
Communications, and Brian McNair examines British satellite and other coverage
of the Iraq war.
Delving deeper into the
issue of coverage, its conditions and consequences, TBS's continuing Media on
Media archive brings the record on what the press had to say about satellite broadcasting
during the Iraq war up to date with a further 27 pieces to add to those included
in the archive's first installment, in TBS 10. As an opener, we also reproduce
the executive summary of the Independent Television Commission's own report on
British TV coverage and audience response to the conflict.
TBS 11 doesn't stop there.
We have reports from three regional academic conferences, book reviews, and an
essay by TBS's publisher and senior editor S. Abdallah Schleifer on some of the
broader issues that the field raises, plus the usual calendar of relevant media-related
TBS draws on the work
of many others. We are particularly pleased to notice that News Xchange list us
as a media partner, and we look forward to their upcoming Budapest conference
(see Calendar), which we
expect to cover in TBS 12.
Now, please read on. TBS