Issue No. 4
Spring 2000
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Douglas A. Boyd (1999). Broadcasting in the Arab World: A Survey of the Electronic Media in the Middle East, Third Edition. Iowa State University Press.

Reviewed by TBS Senior Editor Hussein Amin

Douglas Boyd is recognized internationally as a major contributor to knowledge about broadcasting in the Middle East. In the Arab world, he is considered one of very few scholarly researchers with wide-ranging experience and understanding of Arab media and Arab mass communication.

Boyd accumulated this experience by living and studying the Arab region, with specific reference to the field of Arab broadcasting systems and politics, for almost 40 years. His admirable book on  broadcasting in the Arab world  reflects these years of experience and research in this region. The third edition of this book is almost all new, except for the parts that deal with the historical development of radio and television broadcasting systems in each country.

The author is focusing on development of broadcasting systems in an area that has witnessed many conflicts and is considered a "hot" market. This book examines the role of Arab broadcasting as a tool and its impact on Arab political, economic and cultural settings. It explores the function of electronic media in the Arab world in conveying news and information of general interest, interpreting and commenting on events, providing opinion and perspectives, reinforcing social norms and cultural awareness through the broadcast of information about the national culture and the Arab society, providing specialized data for commercial promotion and services, and, finally, entertaining. Boyd examines Arab satellites as a new means to empower the Arab people through giving them access to information, fostering regional and international dialogues on peace and development, strengthening the knowledge resources of Arab countries, and preserving Arab culture. Finally, Boyd analyzes electronic media content and systems by information gathered through quantitative empirical work, international and comparative research, news analysis, and the new communication technologies.

Boyd uses a wide variety of approaches that make this book particularly insightful. He provides the reader with a clear-cut and extensive literature review and background information on each Arab country. Boyd's scholarship is admirable in both breadth and depth; he shows us every detail and explains it in language easily understood for all levels of readers. He explains the politics of broadcasting in the different political system and cultural settings and provides contrasts in some areas. Boyd also points out some essential information about Arab media uses, habits and impact. In some cases he lays out bodies of data that he compiled through interviews conducted with media personnel and Arab broadcast officials over the years.

Boyd's solid mastery of historical research methods ensure accuracy in detailing the many variables involved in Arab electronic media: monopoly ownership of the media by political regimes, the uniformity of perspective from which the media cover political news, the media's seemingly vast political power, the historical basis for the formulation of a media culture and the history behind the media's acquisition of power for the political system. The analysis of the economic, cultural and political framework, with the use of precise figures to illustrate certain points, makes the book extremely useful for general readers, researchers and students and particularly worthy for those who are interested in Middle East affairs.

In addition to the book's anchor in mass communication research, it is enriched by Boyd's viewpoint on problems that face the development of Arab broadcast and transnational media. Not all chapters are international in scope, but perhaps the most interesting sections are those dedicated to discussion and analysis of international broadcasting to and within the Arab world. Most of the book's 23 chapters are country-by-country general information, brief histories, development of national radio and television services,  the advances of the new broadcasting systems and the numerous benefits of satellite broadcasting in each country. Arab countries discussed in this book include Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Palestine. An interesting question for the next edition would be the development and impact of the Internet in the Arab world and how it impacts broadcasting. TBS

Copyright 2000 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo