Khalid. The Credibility of Arab Broadcasting: The Case of
Al Jazeera. Doha: National Council for Culture, Arts and
Heritage, 2004. Hard cover. 118 pages. ISBN: 99921-25-26-3.
No price listed.
Ralph D. Berenger
Arab world academics are fascinated with the impact of Al Jazeera
on viewing habits, and many studies have been conducted by student
scholars and academics of that particular transnational broadcasting
phenomenon. But few have had the wherewithal--financial or otherwise--to
conduct a global study of the Arab Diaspora.
Qatari Khalid Al-Jaber is no exception, though he has turned
his master's thesis at the University of West Florida into a
thin book that attempts to examine why Arabic-speaking viewers
watch Al Jazeera, which originates from his hometown of Doha.
As a pilot study, Al-Jaber surveyed a convenience sample of
Muslims from thirty-two countries who live in the United States.
A total of 346 responded to a series of fifty questions about
why they watch Al Jazeera--or visited the station's English
website--and how their "use" of the media "gratified"
them. Adding to the classic uses and gratifications study, Al-Jaber
asked questions designed to assess the credibility of the satellite
broadcaster, based on credibility studies developed by the American
Newspaper Editors Association.
The average respondent was a 32-year-old male, who had lived
in the US for seven years, watched TV more than five hours a
day (one to two hours of which were Al Jazeera), and whose annual
family income was between $15,000-25,000. The typical viewer
had at least a college degree. They watched Al Jazeera mostly
for up-to-date news, and they gave high marks to the station
for its credible news that was essentially moral, unsensationalized,
With a global viewership estimated at between 45 and 50 million,
Al Jazeera is a key player in public diplomacy between the Western
and Arab worlds. Al-Jaber's conclusion is that viewers in the
United States, and by implication Arabic speakers around the
world, find Al Jazeera presenting fair and balanced news and
analysis and provides a connection to scattered Arab communities.
L. and Margaret H. DeFleur. Learning to Hate Americans.
Spokane, WA: Marquette Books, 2003. 128 pages. Paperback. ISBN:
Reviewed by Sahar Sedky
Learning to Hate Americans by Melvin L. and Margaret
H. DeFleur monitors the impact of the US media on teenagers'
attitudes towards America in twelve countries, three of them
in the Middle East. The authors, professors at Louisiana State
University, blame US entertainment media for shaping negative
attitudes towards Americans. The book has implications for transnational
broadcasters who transmit US-made entertainment products, and
scholars interested in the long-term effects of media on young
The dozen countries studied were Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, South
Korea, Mexico, China, Spain, Taiwan, Lebanon, Pakistan, Nigeria,
Italy, and Argentina. Teenagers were asked their opinions on
twelve statements concerning Americans, accumulated between
the 2001 Afghanistan war and 2003 Iraq war. Teens in almost
every country had extremely negative attitudes towards Americans.
Almost all agreed that Americans are violent, materialistic,
criminal, and sexually immoral. Only Nigeria, Italy, and Argentina
gave positive responses to many culturally oriented items, while
Pakistan, China, and Taiwan gave positive responses to some
of the individual US attributes.
American pop culture was a major element in shaping significant
negative stereotypes of Americans in these twelve countries,
though the cumulative effects of negative news and propaganda
might well have contributed to "a climate of hate."
The majority of the respondents knew Americans only through
media portrayals since few of study's the participants had ever
visited the US or even had contact with an American. Although
participants were fans of Eminem, Britney Spears, Baywatch,
or the Sex and the City series, they seemed to believe
that Americans are violent, criminally oriented, and imperialistic,
and that American women are sexually immoral. Respondents also
stated that they were eager to watch American entertainment
depicting elements absent from their own lives, such as action
and sex, as well as dangerous behaviors such as shootouts, car
chases, and criminal activities.
G The Impact of International Television: A Paradigm Shift.
Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003. Paperback. 212
pages. ISBN: 0-8058-4220-9. $25.
Reviewed by Lamees M. El Baghdady
For decades, media professionals, scholars, and researchers,
have used the cultural imperialism paradigm as a theoretical
framework to explain the effects of international television
programs on local viewers. This is one of the first books from
leading media scholars that challenge the widely accepted view
that developing countries are dependent on media products and
accept them at their cultural peril.
More importantly, Elasmar introduces a new alternative paradigm
that media researchers should consider while conceptualizing
the impact of transnational television. However, Elasmar focuses
on international entertainment rather than on news programs
and does not tackle the thorny questions of governments' international
policies or the objectives of multinational companies.
The book seeks to remove three key legs of the CI stool, namely
that TV programs encourage consumption of products manufactured
in the country of origin, that many domestic viewers will be
frustrated, and that the values and beliefs embedded in the
imported TV programs will influence the value structures of
Elasmar and contributor John Hunter conducted meta-analysis
procedures to assess the strength of the impact of imported
entertaining television programs.
After analyzing both published and unpublished works on the
impact of international entertainment programs from1960 through
1994, Elasmar and Hunter come to the conclusion that CI theory
was rarely questioned or even quantified empirically.
The dominant perception among the majority of international
observers was that imported television programs have a strong
and homogenous influence on domestic viewers. But after conducting
meta-analysis Elasmar concludes that foreign imported TV programs
have a weak and often negligible impact on domestic audiences.
He observed that most researchers assumed that foreign programs
affected viewers directly without considering other factors
and influences (such as opinion leaders and multi-step flows
In Chapter 9, Elasmar introduces an alternative paradigm to
CI, "Susceptibility to Imported Media" (SIM). Through
this model, Elasmar argues that prior information represented
in knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes about a group, and the
perceived utility and involvement in content, are all pre-existing
schema that will determine how TV content will be comprehended,
retained, and recalled.
Elasmar also introduces readers to the Media-Accelerated Culture
Diffusion (MACD) concept that claims all cultures influence
each other, without the conspiracy claim that often colors the
CI paradigm. He stresses the idea of culture diffusion due to
the existence of "a continuity of indirect causation from
culture event to culture event through the medium of human intermediaries"
Hills, Jill. The
Struggle for Control of Global Communication: The Formative
Century. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2002.
327 pages. Hard cover. ISBN 0-252-02757-4. $39.95.
Reviewed by Aliaa Dawoud
In The Struggle for Control of Global Communication: The
Formative Century, Jill Hills examines the conflict between
media companies and governments over communication control.
Hills also delves into the international struggle to control
global communication, in which multinational media companies
and powerful governments play significant roles.
In its eight chapters, the book records the "political
economy of international communication" in the era between
the nineteenth century and World War II, using today's terminology
and "power relations" to interpret this data. As the
book demonstrates, a fierce national and international struggle
to control global communication continues today.
The book traces the struggle from the era of "submarine
cable technology" in the nineteenth century and the international
dominance by Reuters, then a British government entity, through
the beginnings of global media technology following the Second
Hills concludes that even when private companies controlled
global communication, the powerful governments of the time played
an essential national regulatory role. These countries also
altered the international trading atmosphere to serve the interests
of the private companies affiliated with them. Today, the situation
has not changed.
The book is an excellent reference for courses studying the
history of global communication, as well as for those interested
in the historical role of governments and multinational companies
in the control of mass communication.
Freedom Fries: Fried Freedoms, Arab Satellite Channels Struggle
between State Control and Western Pressure. Amman: Arab
Archive Institute, 2004. Paperback. 233 pages. ISBN: 892-4-2004.
No price listed.
Reviewed by Rasha El-Ibiary
Are worldwide governmental endeavors to achieve democracy, human
rights, and freedom of expression disingenuous? The struggle
of Arab and American governments to control cable and satellite
television in the Middle East has raised questions about democracy
and free expression in the Arab world.
Arab governments' actions and reactions toward Arab satellite
channels, including "interference and disturbance"
with (on-air) talk shows, is described by Sa'eda Kilani as "some
kind of a tactical struggle" by Arab countries within the
authoritarian, "leader-subject," relationship with
media in the Arab world.
The Arab states' moves to control free expression on satellite
channels and propagate their own views range from getting their
own people into on-air talk shows in order to "cast their
opinion and disturb the flow of arguments of their opponents,"
to opening special offices in their departments and diplomatic
missions to "follow debate shows on satellite channels
and participate in them as individual viewers," says Kilani.
Journalists are often banned from covering political demonstrations.
Videotapes are confiscated and journalists are harassed or imprisoned.
Arguments are always ready to justify censorship. Any reporting
on human rights violations is perceived as "exposing the
country's dirty laundry to 'foreigners'" which might harm
the economy and smear the country's reputation. "Who they
are kidding?" asks Kilani. "Their reputation is already
Outraged by Arab satellite channels' critical in-depth coverage
of the 2003 Iraq war, the US administration verbally and physically
assaulted the two main transnational channels, which it accused
of being "violently anti-coalition." Subsequent attacks
against Al Jazeera included pressure on Qatar's emir to rein
in the channel's "anti-American opinions," having
its reporters briefly banned from the New York Stock Exchange,
having its English-language website hacked, and having Al Jazeera's
offices in Kabul and Baghdad hit by US missiles.
Such actions or reactions, not only inspired rage against the
US, but also contradicted its expressed goal of spreading democracy,
human rights, and free expression in the Arab world.
The US has focused only on its "image," not its "policies"
in the Middle East, dedicating tens of millions of dollars to
establishing new Arabic media outlets-Alhurra Television, Radio
Sawa, and Hi Magazine. Alhurra's goals are promoting "free
elections and free markets, free press and free labor unions"
not only in Iraq, but in all Arab countries "burdened with
extended royal families and presidents for life," says
The goals and means to achieve them seem contradictory, she
says. "These are the same royal families and presidents
for life whom the US still wholeheartedly supports and depend
on." As a result, Alhurra inspired more skepticism and
anger, emanating from "both pro-and anti-American camps,"
against the US is promoting freedoms while "allying with
dictatorship regimes, supporting their so-called 'GONGOs (Governmental
NGOs),' and disregarding human rights violations.
N., Robert J. Oslund, and Peter Marshall (eds). Communication
Satellites: Global Change Agents. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum
Associates, 2004. Paperback. 387 pages. ISBN 080-5-8496-29.
Reviewed by Effat Khalifa
Communications Satellites: Global Change Agents gives
an overview of the evolution and impact of satellites through
a multidisciplinary collection of essays, written by professionals
and scholars from a variety of fields.
The book is divided into seven sections of fifteen chapters
by twelve authors, each analyzing satellite technology from
a different perspective. It begins by explaining the historical
and political impacts this technology has had, and will continue
to have, on the economic, social, and political aspects of the
world today, as a tool accelerating globalization.
Though some undergraduates may find the technical aspects of
satellites difficult to understand, they will find easier reading
when the book reviews the various functions of satellites, such
as intelligence and surveillance, missile defense, and command
and control of military capabilities under the so-called dual
use function. Not everything on satellite is broadcast television,
radio, Internet, and mobile phone services, the student will
In addition to building a better understanding of how satellites
work and provide benefits of a more earthly kind, the book also
discusses the role satellites are playing in increasing "techno-economic
efficiency," by making the targeting of particular markets
easier through computer-program driven trading, which is defined
by the authors as "transnationalism" (p. 268). Despite
the great impacts such benefits are having on our world, the
distribution of those benefits remains an issue, since, due
to what the book calls the "digital divide," developed
countries tend to gain a much wider range of benefits.
Students will also find interesting a chapter on the impacts
of communication satellites on society, both positive and negative.
The book argues that satellites have had as great an impact
since their invention 40 years ago as Guttenberg's press.
The first part of the book broadly covers the topic of communications
satellites as global change agents by discussing the changes
they have caused or facilitated in a number of different areas
of our lives and the current and future impacts of those changes.
The second section of the book explains the technical aspects
of satellite technology and may be too technical for casual
readers with no engineering background. It also adds little
to the book's stated topic. The book would be more valuable
if, after the discussion of the different trends of "teleshock"
and "telepower," a chapter could have been added that
discussed the efforts taking place in the world today to limit
culturally undesirable information disseminated by communications
Sakr, Naomi (ed.) Women and Media in the Middle East:
Power through Self-expression. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004.
Paperback. 248 pages. ISBN: 185-04-3545-6. $27.50.
Ralph D. Berenger
There is much to
recommend to readers in Naomi Sakr's latest offering, a departure
from her previous excursion into Satellite Realms (see
TBS 9), but in many ways a more important book. Where Satellite
Realms froze to a moment the dynamic situation concerning
transnational broadcasting, Women and Media in the Middle
East tells a different story of the cross-border broadcasting
in the Muslim world, mostly through the words of women.
This is a book that should not be confined to women's studies
classes, though it would be appropriate there. Instead, it should
be integrated through the curricula of the burgeoning number
of journalism schools in the Middle East, mostly filled with
thousands of young Arab women hoping some day to be a "famous"
journalist. This book gives those hopefuls a dose of reality
while at the same time leaving open the possibility that the
historically dismal history of women communicators in the Middle
East is a thing of the past. Women activists-many of them journalists
and broadcasters-have made a difference throughout the region,
as this book attests.
This book introduces the reader to women from Morocco to Turkey
who overcame social, cultural and economic difficulties in film,
newspapers, television and even the Internet. Thirteen authors
contributed eleven chapters to this book, which ought to appeal
to media and development scholars, political scientists, and
sociologists interested in the Middle East. Their stories are
as educational as they are inspirational.
Exceptional chapters from Sonia Dabbous, Zahia Samil Salhi,
Sahar Khamis, and Lina Khatib draw symbolic meaning from women's
struggles in their professions and as activists, thus becoming
"mothers" of their nations, if not the region, since
media products are often a shared feast. Magda Abu-Fadil contributes
to this theme by examining the international role of female
communicators to furthering global understanding of the condition
of women in the Middle East, while Victoria Firmo-Fontan examines
the role of women on Lebanon's controversial Al Manar, a television
channel operated by Hizbollah.
Deborah Wheeler, one of two American contributors to this book,
examines Internet usage in the Middle East, which, contrary
to worldwide figures, is male dominated by a very wide margin,
and how female users in the region seem not to consider developing
a "global voice."
An unusual attribute of this book is how smoothly the reader
can move from chapter to chapter because it has a 'single author
feel" to it that students will appreciate. Most edited
collections lack uniformity in writing style and voice, which
this volume clearly has.
Other contributors to this volume are Benaz Somiry-Batrawi,
Gholam Khiabany and Annabelle Sreberny, and Haya al-Murghni
and Mary Ann Tetreault.
Dr. Sakr, a new member of the TBS Journal
editorial board, teaches in the School of Media, Arts and
Design at the University of Westminster, London.