As state media weaken, new players to rise in Arab world

As uprisings sweep the Mideast and government control in many countries weakens, its grip on the media is also loosening, Zoe Holman wrote for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting today.

Audiences in these countries haven’t believed much of what these outlets, such as Egypt’s al-Ahram newspaper, have said for years, as “the government’s poorly disguised efforts to interfere with editorial content destroyed the paper’s ability to sway public opinion,” Holman wrote in an article, published by the Bellingham Herald.

And while social media is being lauded for spreading information needed for revolutions, it can’t take all the credit. Al Jazeera, for example, has an audience of 40 million Arab viewers each day.

“I don’t support the notion that it was purely Facebook or Twitter, but it was a mixture of media, and the Internet was crucial,” said Ayman Moyheldin, al-Jazeera’s Cairo correspondent, according to Holman. “If competition doesn’t take out state-owned newspapers and channels, dictators will dismantle them themselves, because they no longer serve any use.”

Credibility must be earned, a factor that will hinder state-controlled media in the future, even after regimes fall, Faisal Abbas, Middle East affairs specialist for the Huffington Post, wrote last month.

For a media outlet to do well, it must find the weaknesses in others, such as credibility of state-run media, and make them its strengths, Ayman Mustafa pointed out in an article today for the Gulf News. This is already happening, as media projects are actively being developed in the region, especially Tunisia and Egypt, and Arabic satellite TV news channels may be launched this year.

“The pivotal role played by the Qatari channel Al Jazeera in the popular uprisings around the region has given new impetus to traditional media, even with the rising role of online media and social networking,” Mustafa wrote.

Indeed, as the global recession plays out and stability in newly freed countries is hoped to take hold, this may just be the perfect time to start a media business. He further noted: “Does the region need another news channel? Despite the apparent saturation, the answer is yes. The Arab news market has got spare capacity. Arab viewers are more politicised and their consumption of news is growing.”

Image: Menassat

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This entry was posted in Arab media, Launches, press freedom. Bookmark the permalink.

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