Uses and Gratifications of Satellite TV in Egypt
By Hala Abdel Rahman
Extract from a thesis submitted to the Journalism and Mass Communication Department, The American University in Cairo, June 1998
The last decade has seen an enormous change in the television broadcasting scene across the world. Cable systems and satellite broadcasting have brought about a phenomenal increase in available television. Geostationary satellites can cover vast areas of the earth, regardless of the terrain or existing infrastructure such as telephone lines or cable systems. As few as three satellites placed strategically over the equator can achieve coverage of the entire earth. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon almost 30 years ago, 500 million people on earth watched the event live via three Intelsat satellites over the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans.
A satellite is a highly complex electronic device that typically requires two years and millions of dollars to build. The two most important components are the solar panels, which power the satellite, and the communications payload, which accesses, amplifies and retransmits the signal. The use of higher-powered KU band satellites means that much smaller antennas can be used down on the ground. Because a satellite’s footprint is usually quite broad, anyone possessing proper equipment can receive a downlink signal.
Direct Broadcasting Satellite has been defined by the International Telecommunication Union as a radio communication service, in which signals transmitted or retransmitted by space stations are intended for direct reception by the general public. Today, the term DBS is commonly used to refer to any satellite TV service that is intended for direct pickup at the subscriber’s home. DBS beams radio and TV program signals from originating stations directly to homes via high powered satellite transmitters, meaning that people within the coverage area of the satellite’s broadcast signals receive programming through their own dishes directly from the satellite transmitter rather than through the terrestrial transmission of a local station.
In 1992, while orbiting the earth in a space shuttle, a Japanese scientist named Dr. Mamoru Mohri gave a lesson to Japan’s elementary-school children. In this lesson, which was broadcast live from space, Dr. Mohri explained: Looking down from space, the Earth is blue and beautiful. Its oceans, deserts, forests and cities are all discernible. But no national borders can be seen. Broadcasting via DBS necessarily involves international issues, because with satellite signals, like our planet viewed from space, national borders are undetectable. International broadcasting from satellites, especially DBS, has created controversy because governments have no effective control over signals of other countries whose programs might not be deemed suitable for audiences in their own countries, who can nevertheless receive the signals by simply installing a small dish.
Statement of Importance
of the Study
In view of the lack of up-to-date statistics and research on the impact of satellite TV on Egyptian viewers, this study’s main purpose is to explore the uses and gratifications of satellite TV viewers in Egypt. It is important for government officials, media operators and TV producers to know why people watch satellite TV and how this viewing affects national television. For social scientists the impact of satellite TV on viewers as well as the type of acceptance given to satellite TV content represent an area of study that has not yet been subject to deep investigation.
The researcher selected a list of 19 items. Some were borrowed from the uses and gratification literature and some were added. These items were designed to measure five independent factors--understanding, learning, relaxation, companionship, and diversion--and to measure the two research concepts of cognitive and affective satellite TV viewing motivations.
The sample chosen consisted of 310 viewers in Cairo who subscribe to satellite guides. Since this group of satellite TV viewers has subscribed to a satellite guide, it is presumed that they are highly selective and their viewing is goal-directed, and that, therefore, the receiver will attend only to the message (content) he or she wants. The systematic probability sample is stratified to include randomly chosen subscribers of Sat World monthly guide, TV Dish monthly guide, and Satellite Guide bi-monthly and weekly subscribers. continued
1998 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo