Privatization and Transnational
The Third Annual Conference
of the Arab-U.S. Association for Communication Educators (AUSACE)
by Conference Coordinator
and TBS Senior Editor Hussein Amin
The third annual conference of the Arab-U.S. Association for Communication Educators
(AUSACE) was held in Helnan Shepheard Hotel in Cairo, Egypt, September 7-10, 1998.
The conference was hosted by the American University in Cairo and co-sponsored
by Georgia State Universityís Center for International Media Education and Transnational
Broadcasting Studies. The theme of the conference was "Privatization and Transnational
More than fifty presentations
were delivered and discussed during the three days of the conference. In his opening
remarks, Conference Chair Hussein Amin noted that although transnational media
in the Arab world is a very recent development, it has made significant changes
and brought Arab subcultures together, and as a result, the dissemination of information
throughout the Arab world is now occurring at an accelerated rate. Amin added
that transnational media present a perfect means for electrifying and facilitating
political, economic, social and cultural development in the region.
John Gerhart, president
of the American University in Cairo, indicated in his opening remarks that one
of the most important lessons he has learned in his twenty-nine years of work
in development is the importance of communication and the immense power of the
spoken word and the visual image. As educators, he said, one of our greatest responsibilities
is teaching our students how to communicate effectively, whether by using the
latest computer or satellite technology or simply by speaking to one another.
His Excellency Mohammed
Safwat el-Sherif, Egyptís Minister of Information and the keynote speaker at the
conference, stated that Egypt and other countries face a great responsibility
to preserve national identity in an era of multiple choices, the age of open skies
and the growing importance of transnational media. The Egyptian transnational
media strategy, he said, started in the 1980s by preparing audiences to receive
international broadcasts from different parts of the world, and thereby bringing
different cultural directions and ideas.
Discussion in the three
days of panel sessions focused on main themes such as media and communication
technology, educational technology, women and communication, privatization, and
cultural communication. The research and papers listed below are a selection representative
of these key conference themes.
A few years ago, transnational
media as we know it today had no existence in the Middle East. The region had
no internet access, and the few direct-to-home (DTH) satellite channels offered
little threat to the monopoly state-run national TV channels. Jon Alterman of
the United States Institute of Peace analyzed the new transnational media, indicating
that it will bring greater transnational links between Arabs and the likely ascendance
of a new sense of Arabism. [Editor's note: Alterman explores these themes further
in this issue's article Transnational Media and Social Change in the Arab World.]
Naomi Sakr of Londonís City University looked at regulatory issues of direct-to-home
satellite broadcasting in the Arab world, examining how regulations on satellite-related
issues operate on national, regional, and international levels.
and their applications was another major area of study. Richard Welch from Kennesaw
State University, Katherine Teel of Georgia State University, and Shirley Biagi
from California State University-Sacramento studied electronic magazines and examined
issues related to their creation and publication. They concluded that the internet
is a realistic, practical, accessible medium and has the capability of reaching
a mass audience. Ahmed el Gody of the American University in Cairo discussed the
uses of cybercafes in spreading internet literacy in Egypt and concluded that
internet cafes have do have an impact on developing internet literacy in the state.
Mohamed Tarabay of the Lebanese American University discussed the challenges of
the internet for the Arab journalist, using the Beirut daily newspaper An-Nahar
as a case study. He concluded that Arab news media and personnel are not fully
employing the possibilities of the internet in their day-to-day news gathering,
reporting and writing.
New technologies are being
employed in the classroom as well, and as this is a particular concern of AUSACE,
several presentations dealt with exciting new projects and possibilities for educators.
Roger Gafke and Ronald Naeger of the University of Missouri at Columbia explored
the use of the internet to edit students' stories long-distance, indicating that
this is a positive step in the development of transnational reporting and newswriting
classes. Douglas Barthlow from Georgia State University discussed student TV productions
and the possibilities of seeking distribution off campus, and recommended enhancing
cooperation between universities and distributors. The problems involved in training
TV journalists in Egypt in the age of transnational broadcasting were touched
on in a paper by Abdallah Schleifer, director of the Adham Center for Television
Journalism at the American University in Cairo and TBS senior editor. Schleifer
noted that thanks to news organizations like CNN, BBC, WNBC and MBC, TV journalism
is no longer an unrecognized craft in the Arab world. His paper also shed light
on the Adham Center experience.
The evolving role of older,
more traditional means of communication, among them telephone networks, radio,
and print, was also explored. Abdel Ghani Jbara from the American University in
Cairo analyzed telecommunications and economic development in Morocco. James Danowski
from the University of Illinois examined the performance of Arab countries' global
telephone traffic networks, and concluded that in contrast to broadcast media,
the network-based media carrying messages over telephone circuits promote less
unified global networks and instead an increasing variety of subgroups. Douglas
Boyd of the University of Kentucky examined WorldSpaces Digital Radio and the
new age of international radio broadcasting in the Middle East. The differences
between English and Arabic magazines were examined in a paper by Shems Friedlander
of the American University in Cairo. He examined graphics, typography, photography
and ethics on the printed page and pointed out that the Middle East will eventually
have to comply with global standards if advertising, magazines, books and websites
are to go beyond local frontiers.
Social and political concerns
complemented technological ones, with one of the key topics being women and communication.
Octavia Naser of CNN International tackled issues of women and education in her
paper titled "Investing in Women: Education, Training and Job Opportunities."
Sonia Dabbous from the American University in Cairo talked about the experiences
of three prominent Egyptian women writers in the context of the role of women's
press in demanding women's political rights. Michael Hage of the United Nations
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) examined the representation of rural women,
who are critical to the functioning and development of agriculture in the Middle
East, in the region's mass media.
In the domain of cultural
communication and media, Yahya Kamalipour from Purdue University at Calumet described
the concepts of information and image wars, saying that a positive global image
is needed for transnational corporations and their products as well as nations
and their people. Adel Iskandar, a journalist in Halifax, Canada, took another
angle on intercultural communications with his four-year ethnographic study of
Canadaís Arab immigrant population and their relationship with the Western media.
The precarious and difficult
positions of national media and the processes of privatization were considered
in a session titled Cultural Communication and Privatization. Leo Gher of Southern
Illinois University at Carbondale discussed the principles for transformation
to free market economics in the Middle East. Specific local studies complemented
this wider view; Yorck Von Korff from Hamburg University, Germany examined Egyptian
journalists' professional standards and the challenge of privatization and sketched
the development and the performance of the private press in Egypt. Darin Klein
from Georgia State University made a preliminary exploration of how state-owned
and party-owned newspapers differ in their coverage of recent political, economic
and social issues in Egypt.
The diversity of themes and ideas presented at this conference is evidence of
transnational communication's regional and global impact. As stated by Dr. Carolyn
Crimmins, acting president of AUSACE, in her opening remarks at the conference,
communication educators must be part of the effort to understand the new systems
of transnational communications, global communities, and global cultures. To this
end, AUSACE, as an outcome of the Cairo conferences: recommends the following:
- putting the energy of
this meeting toward developing a momentum toward transnational communication education.
- the formation of a committee
that will explore and oversee the implementation of transnational communication
for education between the Arab world and the United States.
- the development of interactive
websites between Arab and U.S. universities to allow faculty and students from
these two regions to communicate directly with each other and to strengthen their
relationship on a personal, professional and academic level.
- immediate formation of
discussion and interest groups of faculty and students from the Arab World and
the United States to participate in an open dialogue of issues of interest and
concerns in fields such as education, culture, politics and economics. The conference
also recommends that Arab and US faculty and students take maximum advantage of
and utilize e-mail services in this regard.
- the field of transnational
media education is growing very quickly, particularly in satellite communication
education. The conference recommends taking maximum advantage of what transnational
media is offering now in order to contribute to building the regional and global
- the introduction and
implementation of adequate training programs for better use of the transnational
media. Positive growth of transnational media depends on training programs in
areas related to technical writing, editing, production, and management. The conference
also recommends that academic and practical courses should be offered to orient
and teach professionals how to broadcast to and address the globe.
- the conference realizes
the significant and critical contributions of the professional communications
community to the success of this Cairo conference. Strong efforts should be made
to bridge the gap between the academic and the professional world. Interaction
between academic institutions' faculty and students and the media enterprises'
staff and professionals within Arab countries, between Arab countries, and between
the Arab world and the United States is very important.
- equal opportunity for
women in all fields related to the media. Under-representation of women in the
journalistic profession is a problem that should be under investigation.
- an end to the misrepresentation
of women in the media, in all countries and at all levels
- the continuation of the
development of private and public media in general and in transnational media
- an emphasis on joint
research projects, especially with regard to new methods and techniques that are
introduced along with transnational media, and that careful attention should be
given to the role of research. Cooperation in the field of research is essential
to ensure the success of transnational media.
- Finally, the conference
recognizes the role of transnational media in societal development and attitudinal
modernization, and recommends enlarging the scope of media freedom and enhancement
of media credibility in the Arab world to close the gap with other regions' competitive
transnational media. TBS