"Satellite television has brought the Arab-speaking world together, for better or worse."

Posted: 06 Mar 2012   Print   Send a link
Al Jazeera English, 24 Feb 2012, Marwan Bishara, excerpts from Chapter 6 of The Invisible Arab: The promise and peril of the Arab revolutions: "The emergence of satellite networks broke the Arab state's hold on media, as satellite networks competed in the political and religious playing fields and through the use of entertainment and pop culture. ... Once a regime lost its control over the message, it lost control, period. From then on, it was a question of public will and time. The same could be said, perhaps, about the early Western monopoly over the airwaves. When satellite television first emerged, Arabs, among others, were likely in 1991 to hear CNN's Bernard Shaw reporting from Baghdad, followed by US generals, and, in between, commercials for McDonald's, Nike, and Jeep. ... Regionalisation or so-called 'perverse globalisation' has become the norm in the Arab world, as culturalisation took precedence over Western-driven globalisation. Arabic took over from English and French, and Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya pulled ahead of CNN and the BBC on the ratings charts, just as Rotana pulled ahead of MTV among Arabs - including the English-speaking elites. Satellite television has brought the Arab-speaking world together, for better or worse. It mostly advanced Arab rather than Western brands, explored Arab desires instead of US preoccupations, Arab drama and soap operas, rather than French literature or British sitcoms. Even when they adopted Western pop culture, they succeeded in adding their own flavour to it, prompting regional and global powers from Iran to China through France, Russia, and the United States, to establish satellite networks that broadcast in Arabic."