Polarization of Privately Funded Arab Media is Firing Back
By Maen Alhusseini
The recent events in the Middle East have had their impact on several macro factors in the region whether political, economic, social, and even on the media.
When you turn on your TV on an Arab news channel, it’s either a pro Saudi & co. version of the news, or a pro Iran & Qatar version. The Two prominent news channels Qatar’s Al-Jazeera, and KSA’s Al-Arabiya have only become an echo of the two regimes’ media strategy.
On Aljazeera, you can barely watch a single news that does not include reports about Jamal Khashoukji’s (Khashoggi) murder, Prince MBS fall down, Iran’s holding down against world tyrants, or Alhouthi victories in Yemen. On the Al-Arabiya however, it’s all about allies victories in Yemen, Qatar’s fall down news, and prince MBS extraordinary achievements.
This phenomenon has also mushroomed to include many other Saudi or Qatari funded news channels and agencies. Money has become the tool of twisting the truth and polarization of opinion in the Arab world.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, our parents and grandparents used to listen to one specific channel as a news source: The Voice of Israel (in Arabic). They said it was their only reliable source of political events taking place in our countries! BBC was also popular because of its apparent neutrality despite the several conspiracy theories about its hidden agenda. Back then however, there was only the government official media. Thus, you can swallow the fact that any Arab regime would use its media sources to crowd public opinion concerning one issue or another. What is not acceptable, however, is for the privately owned news agencies to play that role.
It is understandable that any news media would have its own goals and strategy, but loosing neutrality altogether is devastating to its credibility. And the last is the only thing that would attract or push away intelligent audience.
Al-Jazeera and MBC’s group Al- Arabiya have spent millions of Dollars to build audience in the past 15 years plus, but I believe this investment will soon go down the drain. The new generation is what can be called news-intelligent. They have tremendous internet surfing and searching techniques, they subscribes in news apps that collect news from hundreds of sources, and most importantly, they are definitely not dogmatic. This means you cannot just feed news in their minds in hopes that they will believe you because you only said so.
With the lack of any methodical studies about the aforementioned channels or similar news channels’ bias, an interesting approach would be to compare that to the bias of the privately owned channel Fox News. According to Media Bias Fact Check (https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/) the channel is a lean right media source because of “story selection and/or political affiliation, utilizing strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publishing misleading reports and omitting reporting of information that may damage conservative causes.)”
I believe it would be very interesting if media experts and researchers elaborates on using these criteria and more in conducting a research about biased Arab media.
Taking it a step further, they can work on creating a Bias Indicator which can be frequently updated and shared with audience so that they can really know what they are watching or listening to.
Let’s have the audience not the money decide about the success and failure of media.
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He also offers coaching sessions in leadership, communication, and career building for organizations and individuals.
CEO of a group of companies that manufacture and distribute food products around the world. Member of the Association for Coaching International - UK.
Email Maen at MaenHu@gmail.com.
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