- 24 June 2004
of words are spoken and written each year about Arab satellites,
scholars have rarely ventured into the means of analyzing their
conceptual structures to ask the stakeholders about their views
on the pressing socio-economic and political issues. Moreover,
while a variety of organizations and governmental bodies have
attempted to assist in the quest to modernize and develop, very
little is known about internal perceptions of satellite channels
and their consequences.
As a first
step at attempting to better understand the current socio-economic
issues of the Arab satellites in such a changing world, the
International Academy for Media Science (IAMS), under the supervision
of Egypt's Ministry of Information, organized its first annual
academic conference at the Media Free City in Cairo, Egypt from
June 22 to 24, 2004. More than sixty scholars and media experts
from different countries in the Middle East and in Egypt held
a series of meetings in an attempt to understand such issues
from within. They presented papers to discuss the current challenges
facing Arab satellites as well as related issue areas such as
education, administration, policy formulation, regional development,
and international affairs.
gathered will provide material for future research and analysis
in collaboration with different regional and international scholars
as well as a volume summarizing the authors' conclusions. Egyptian
Ministry of Information programme funds were the major source
of funding for the event. However, the conference owes its realization
to its president, Dr. Mona El-Hadidi. The general patrol officer,
Dr. Hassen Emad, served as secretary general of the conference,
while Eng. Abd El-Rehman Hafez, chairman of Media City, moderated
the parallel workshop.
of information Safwat Al-Sherif attended the conference opening
reception, where he emphasized the importance of this event
due to interesting collection of contributions from a number
of international authors and practitioners. The focal point
was on instructional approaches aiming to improve Arab media
in the face of current challenges by further enhancement of
implementing new trends of media teaching, vocational training,
and learning experience through the use of technology-based
Hussein Amin, chairperson of the Journalism and Mass Communication
Department at the American University in Cairo, presented a
quantitative research paper entitlted "The Accomplishments
and Challenges Facing the Arab Satellites in Terms of Impact
and Penetation." Another research paper was co-authored
and presented by Dr. Adel Jendli and Dr. Maher Kheleifa from
Zayed University in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. The paper
analyzed "The Effects of Western Style Arabic Music on
the Emirati Youth Identity and Culture" in an attempt to
observe its role on the motivational instructional strategies
influencing motivation in self-regulated learning. The outcomes
demonstrate that much more work is required in this area in
Emam Aly, professor of broadcasting at the Faculty of Mass Communication
at Cairo University presented a research paper on "The
Effects of the Egyptian Audience's Viewing of the Satellite
Channels on the National Mass Media." Dr. Howayda Mostafa,
assistant professor at the International Academy for Media Science,
presented a paper tackling "Media Coverage of the War on
Iraq on the Arab Satellite Channels: An Analytical and Critical
on the concepts of "reusability" and "repurposability,"
Ibrahim Saleh from the American University in Cairo presented
a paper dealing with "The Descriptive Analysis of Media
Management in Egypt," which attempts to operationalize
concepts such as "granularity," "reusability,"
"scalability," and "interoperability." Dr.
Hussein Abou Shanab from Al-Aqsa University in Palestine presented
a paper that attempts to observe "The Media Habits of the
Reporters of Arab Satellite Channels, New Agencies and Press"
as part of the process of moving from theory to practice in
the instructional design in a global environment.
important research paper was presented by Ashraf Abou El-Yazeed,
an art critic with Al-Arabi Magazine in Kuwait that discussed
the artistic value of the logos of the Arab satellite channels.
The paper reports on the "powerful learning" with
a particular reference to the importance of interactivity in
learning and the development of what could be termed "powerful
adequate dialogue learning."
In the "Current
Practice" section, there were a number of reports on "works
in progress" from different parts of the region. Dr. Muhammad
Moad, the head of Ain Shams Uninversity's Mass Communication
and Child Cultures Department, presented an important report
on ways of improving the TV news of the Egyptian Satellite Channel.
Dr. Ahmed Farouk Radwan provided another important report from
Helwan University that studied the nature of audience dependency
on news bars as a source of information.
Amer from the Faculty of Computers and Information of Cairo
University provided the conference with a crucial report introducing
a proposed new design for the next generation for all unified
communications and signaling protocols.
In the Commentary
section, both scholars and practitioners provided different
views on the adoption of technology-based approaches to media
education that would eventually be reflected on the structure
of Arab satellite channels. And in the Melting Pot section,
the conference attendees provided their views on their recent
experiences, which covered the full spectrum of available educational
technologies, training issues, and research and development,
as well as genre-specific topics.
of the IAMS 2004 conference stem from a press statement from
the Ministry of Information that emphasized the cause and the
effects of the conference, which is to bring together "key
local stakeholders to critically review all the current challenges
facing Arab satellite channels".
It is a
profound step to crystallize a sound program of comprehensive
reform leading to the emergence of a structural conception of
the constituencies and institutional framework for the media.
Accordingly, this process of media reform is necessitated by
two primary considerations: The laws, which affect the media,
are scattered across statute books, which often make them inaccessible.
And due to the fact that some of the enactments either duplicate
or contradict each other, there are huge gaps which also need
to be addressed. The conference recommendations stressed the
need to consider the possibility of codifying or at least harmonizing
the laws and policies.
of the conference, according to the framers, are manifold-to
re-assess the current legal and institutional framework for
the control and regulation of the Arab satellite channels and
agree on areas in need of reform in accordance with international
standards on freedom of expression. The aim ewas to realize
the international standards through a process of building and
broadening of the constituency for media reform in the Middle
East by sensitizing relevant sectors of Arab civil society.
has also suggested embarking on a macro-plan to raise the profile
of the issue of media reform during this time period so as to
agree on a program of action for media reform. Such convergence
of media and wider participation in communication underlie the
global information revolution now permeating the Middle East
and bypassing efforts of nearly all governments of the region.
Hence the recommendation included accommodation to this information
revolution, from the stimulation of public discourse to the
promotion of acceptable views.
motto of the conference was to initiate a multiplication of
actors in a widening public realm and generate profound structural
changes in the content and format presented. This could only
be attained through bringing forward the developmental paradigm
that is presumed to be embodied in the region's first cohort
of young people raised on television, increasing numbers of
whom are also adept in the Internet. One observation by way
pf concluding comment is the fact that the retail technology
has brought into the public arena conventions and practices
of face-to-face communication that mass communications had relegated
to a "private" realm, expanding their reach and what
is in the public sphere. The public sphere has been enriched
not just by the addition of more players but by more conversations.
channels should overcome the dominating trends of political
reporting and ideological commentary and abolish the indigenous
forms that stir up tensions between local diversities and would-be
uniformities. The Arab channels should be restructured into
a model for post-mass media marked by audience fragmentation,
diversity, and profit-seeking.
Saleh is a lecturer in Journalism & Mass Communication
at the American University in Cairo and a member of the Academic
Council of the United Nations Systems. He is currently finishing
his Ph.D. in International Political Communication on "Satellite
Coverage of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Comparative Content
Analysis: Nile TV, BBC & Israeli Channel 2."