Issue No. 1
Fall 1998
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From the Editor

Welcome to the journal Transnational Broadcasting Studies.

It’s a complex name, but one very deliberately chosen. A journal restricted to media that is both broadcasting in nature and transnational in range of transmission may seem highly specialized, but this is in actuality an already enormous and ever-growing field with the potential to have a profound impact on global societies as we move toward the 21st century.

In the most literal of senses, we are dealing with broadcasting that transcends political borders. Most broadcasting within the United States is national in scope, but transnational broadcasting is particularly prevalent in the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Broadcasting studies as a discipline reflects this; the field within the United States tends to focus largely on the national system. Thus, a major part of our purpose is to bring to the student of global broadcasting, specifically in the United States but also around the world, information that is not readily available elsewhere. Our debut issue devotes special attention to the Arab world. Concerns regarding the impact of the media—specifically transnational broadcasting, which often originates outside the region—on religion, politics, values, and traditions are widespread and vary from place to place, making this region one of the most complex and fascinating when it comes to the study this field.

A study of transnational broadcasting includes looking at the ever-changing technology that makes it possible, and in this issue journalist and broadcaster Chris Forrester examines the rise of digital technology among transnational channels and networks broadcasting to the Arab world. In a sense, too, this is a multidisciplinary field that brings into play international law and politics, economics, history, sociology, and multicultural studies. Jon Alterman, in his article Transnational Media and Regionalism, explores the unifying nature of transnational broadcasting in two areas, the Arab world and Latin America.

The development of transnational broadcasting is necessarily accompanied by a myriad of issues of regulation and control, censorship, cross-cultural influences, and cultural and national values and priorities that also require examination. We explore these themes by talking to the people who encounter them every day: in our exclusive interviews with Sheikh Saleh Kamel, president and chairman of the board of ART (Arab Radio and Television), Orbit President Alexander Zilo, and MBC CEO Ian Ritchie; in our Virtual Symposium, which brings together viewpoints of media professionals and academics from the United States and Arab region; in senior editor Abdallah Schleifer's regional survey; and in Joe Foote's report on the changing fortunes of Cable Network Egypt (CNE).

Convergence is the theme of the moment in the industries of broadcasting, computing, and telecommunications, and our content will adjust accordingly as this trend continues. Internet technology, for example, has always been transnational by nature, but is only joining the world of broadcasting through recent "netcasting" events and through the rise of interactive television. The best opening-day gain of any company in the history of Wall Street was posted by Broadcast.com, a company that streams live news, radio, music, and other programs over the internet. Shares "more than tripled in value in frenzied trading over its first day," making Broadcast.com “a $1 billion company in a matter of hours," reported the International Herald Tribune’s Cyberscape columnist David Barboza (July 20, 1998). Microsoft’s WebTV reports more than 400,000 subscribers in the United States to its internet service and skyrocketing sales of its internet-enhanced TV units (Wall Street Journal, July 3-4, 1998). "We believe the internet will become the next broadcast network," says Microsoft’s Jim Duyrkin.

If Duyrkin is correct, and if Wall Street enthusiasm is any indication, then the internet will become a driving force in transnational broadcasting and the increasing object of TBS concern. Regarding the Middle East, ART will soon by applying OpenTV's electronic programming features on its channels (see our regional survey for details).

The electronic journal itself, as a medium, parallels this shift in broadcasting. The traditional print journal has readers and traditional broadcasting has viewers and listeners. The electronic journal and interactive broadcasting have users. It is a unique challenge to design a publication for both readers who will print selected sections to peruse on paper, and for users who will follow links to create their own paths through an information space. It is also particularly suitable that the internet be our medium in that the study of broadcasting owes much to the rise of new technologies, for giving us a new perspective and new paradigm against which to examine broadcasting and its role in our lives. As Steven Johnson argues in Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (Harper Edge, 1997), "Only when another medium rolls into view does the television’s influence become perceptible." The study of transnational broadcasting, like many academic disciplines today, is one in which the things we try to step back and study are happening now, projection of future trends and developments is as important as analyzing what currently exists, and cooperation with the industry is vital. This is an area that impacts our world and worldview at the very same time that we as viewers, listeners, or ""surfers"--and as scholars and professionals--participate in shaping its development.

Much is made in the world of computers of "user-friendliness." It is a vital part of our undertaking that TBS be user-friendly not just in the conventional technological sense; we also strive to make our content user-oriented. While it is important that the contributors, be they academics, journalists, or industry professionals, find the journal useful, it is more critical to us that the readers be the beneficiaries. We want to make available not only academic papers but also data, research, documents and resources that may be hard for the student of transnational broadcasting in many parts of the world to access. We aim to provide both serious academic work and up-to-date and in-depth reporting on the developing industries involved in transnational broadcasting. With these goals in mind, we have designed a journal that blends scholarly articles with research, features and essays, interviews with industry leaders, and symposium discussions. Each issue also includes an annotated bibliography and calendar of events related to transnational broadcasting.

We hope you enjoy the first issue of Transnational Broadcasting Studies, and we welcome your contributions and feedback. TBS

Copyright 1998 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo
E-mail: TBS@aucegypt.edu