SATELLITE CHRONICLES: November 2003 to April 2004

November 2003

According to a Washington Post article reported by AlHayat (16 November, 2003), the Pentagon is preparing itself to launch a 24-hour satellite channel from Baghdad to provide "a more comprehensive picture" of events in Iraq.

Al-Arabiya is ordered to close its Baghdad office following a charge of "incitement to murder" subsequent to its broadcasting of a tape by deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Al-Arabiya complies but rejects the charge, noting that "the media are reporters and not manufacturers of events" (AlHayat, 25 November, 2003).

Al Jazeera's English Language website dumps its star reporter Yvonne Ridley, a decision that generates almost one million emails protesting the decision. (Al-Ahram Weekly 27 November - 3 December 2003)


December 2003

Saudi Prince al-Walid bin Talal announces in Beirut that he owns 49 percent of shares in LBC Sat.

Dima Tarhini, formerly a producer of Al Jazeera's "Hot Point" show, joins CNBC Arabiya to be anchor for its Political Economic Report (AlHayat 17 December 2003)


January 2004

3 January, 2003: AlHayat reports that residents of Ramallah, El Bireh, and surrounding areas have been suffering from disturbances of and interruptions to satellite broadcasts. The reasons are not known but rumors include Israeli security measures, microwave transmissions from a nearby Jewish settlement, and the presence of local TV stations using bandwidths close to those of the satellites.

17 January, 2004: Asharq Alawsat reports the resignation of Ibrahim Helal as editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera.

February 2004

2 February: Asharq Al-Awsat reports that France's minister of culture and communications is to introduce a bill into parliament forbidding satellite service providers from transmitting anti-semitic matter. The bill is regarded as a response to protests in France over the airing of al-Manar's series al-Shatat ("The Dispersal"). On 9 February, the same newspaper reports that Eutelsat, which transmits al-Manar on its Hot Bird 4 satellite, believes that it does not have the legal power to prevent its transmission.

14 February: US government launches Alhurrah satellite TV channel with the aim of "encouraging moderation and moderates, and spreading the message of freedom and democracy in the world" (AlHayat).

20 February: MBC starts transmission of Big Brother, a "reality TV" show, in Bahrain, leading to protests by Islamist deputies in Bahrain's parliament (AlHayat).

22 February: Armed and masked men break in to the offices of Turkish satellite channel Ikhlas in Gaza and tell employees to close the office and leave within 24 hours. Observers attribute the incursion to press rivalries. (AlHayat).

March 2004

2 March: MBC halts broadcasting of Big Brother (al-Ra'is) at request of Bahrain's Ministry of Information (AlHayat).

3 March: First anniversary of launching of Al-Arabiya satellite channel.

5 March: Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera, is reported to have announced at a recent news conference that Al Jazeera will always be free-to-air. Khanfar also dismisses reports of subsidies paid to the station by Saddam Hussein's government as based on forged documents, and announces coming launch of three new channels—a documentary channel, an English-language channel, and a children's channel (AlHayat).

8 March: Saudi Arabian judge Sheikh Ibrahim Bin Nasir al-Khudayri declares watching, working for, and advertising on US government-owned Arabic-language satellite channel Alhurra to be unlawful, as the station is "corrupt" and aims at "waging war on Islam and Americanizing the world." Sheikh al-Khudayri also noted that the station's logo of what he called "lost horses" contained "religious symbols that...can be understood only by those who have religious qualifications" (AlHayat).

26 March: Abd al-Qadir Hajjar, a leading official of Algeria's ruling FLN, declares that he will bring a case against Ali Bin Flis, rival candidate to President Bou Taflika, for financing the return to Algeria of Al Khalifa News TV. Abd al-Qadir Salat, leader of the Bin Flis campaign, denies the charge. (Asharq al-Awsat).

March 31: The Permanent Committee for Scientific Research and the Issuing of Fatwas of the Organization of Senior Religious Scholars of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa declaring LBC's Star Academy to be unlawful by reason of its "permitting things which by consensus are forbidden and making a public show of them," citing in particular "the mixing of the sexes." The anathema applies to transmitting, watching, and financing the program, as well as participating in it, voting for the candidates, and expressing approval of it. The pronouncement concluded that "it is well known that these programs are among the causes that bring down catastrophes and disasters on Islam and the Muslims." (AlHayat).

April 2004

April 11: AlHayat reports that Naguib Sawiris has been granted a license to operate Iraq's first private terrestrial television station, to be called Hawa, with satellite transmission to follow soon. Sawiris is said to have allocated 25 million dollars as an initial investment and has entrusted technical management of the station to Mohammad Gohar's Video Cairo Sat. Transmission is scheduled for June 15, according to Gohar. Hawa is described as a "general station concerned with the economy, politics, leisure, and awareness raising" with a focus on "confronting the social and human disintegration that has afflicted Iraqi society since 1958."

April 28: AlHayat reports that US secretary of state Colin Powell held talks April 27 with his Qatari counterpart, Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabr Al Thani touching on Al Jazeera's coverage of events in Iraq. The talks are described as "intense and frank." TBS

Copyright 2004 Transnational Broadcasting Studies
TBS is published by the
Adham Center for Television Journalism, the American University in Cairo
E-mail: TBS@aucegypt.edu