The media landscape of West Asia includes countries and media systems as diverse as Turkey, with big media conglomerate holdings; Lebanon, whose media strongly influence developments in the Arab media sector, state-controlled Syrian media, partly controlled media under the Palestinian National Authority (PNA); and pro-government media in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The media market of Turkey (population estimate 68 million) has changed from familyowned media enterprises to large media empires that have additional stakes in construction, banking, and other industries. This applies not only to the press but also to radio and television, so that the majority of national dailies and television stations are owned by a few media holdings. The largest is Dogan Group, which owns influential dailies Hürriyet, Milliyet, Radikal, Posta, and numerous other publications, several publishing houses, three TV channels (CNN Türk, Kanal D, Star TV), and radio stations, followed by the Merkez Group and smaller media holdings. The popular private television stations offer a diet of entertainment, sports and news, and locally produced dramas, but there are also several thematic channels for news (CNN Türk, NTV, Habertürk) and music (Kral TV, Number One TV) alongside Islamic TV stations (Mesaj TV, Kanal 7). Public TRT television, with seven channels ranging from general to thematic programs, is faced with political interference and strong competition with successful private channels. Of around 1,100 private radio channels, 36 stations broadcast nationally, and TRT has four national radio channels with different themes.
Lebanon is a small country (population approximately 4 million) but known throughout the Arab world for a vibrant and free, privately owned press. Different political opinions are published in the biggest dailies, An-Nahar, As-Safir, and Ad-Diyar, and numerous other dailies and periodicals. Government-run Télé Liban has never recovered from its division during the civil war (1975–1990) and suffers from political interference and financial neglect. The state also owns Radio Liban. In 1985, LBC was founded as the first private television in Lebanon and the Arab world. By the early 1990s a plethora of illegal television and radio stations existed in Lebanon. As a result, the government wanted to control private television and radio through the audiovisual media law of 1994. After many protests, only a few stations were licensed to broadcast news and political programs, and they had to represent the major sects and political leaders: LBCITV/Sawt Lubnan Radio (Maronite), MTV/Radio Mont Liban (Greek Orthodox), Future TV/Radio Orient (owned by Sunni ex-prime minister Hariri), NBN TV/Radio (representing Shiite parliamentary speaker Berri), and Al-Manar TV/Al-Nour Radio (affiliated to the Shiite militia and party Hizbullah). New TV/ Sawt as-Shaab Radio (Sunni) received a license in 1998.
The political and sectarian affiliations of the stations are visible in the news and political programs. Those who criticized Syrian policies in Lebanon had to bear the consequences: MTV/Radio Mont Liban was closed down in 2002, and parliament reversed the decision only in 2005. Lebanese entertainment and game shows attract large audiences and are transmitted also by the satellite channels LBC, Future, and New TV to the Arab Gulf. The transmission of international formats such as Superstar and Star Academy on FutureSat and LBCSat was highly successful throughout the Arab world. Al-Manar broadcasts family series adapted to the Islamic moral code of Hizbullah, with political programs praising the Islamic resistance, interrupted by advertisements for Hizbullah-affiliated organizations. Its satellite operations, which include English and French newscasts, have earned Al-Manar a worldwide Muslim audience. LBC’s cooperation with pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat gives LBCSat competence in news reporting throughout the Arab world. Lebanon’s media will continue to play a significant role in the development of Arab media and many journalists have been trained in Lebanese stations and universities before joining pan-Arab channels.
The media sector of Syria (population estimate 18.5 million) is controlled by the Baath party and the government under Bashar al-Assad. Criticism of the president and his family is not permitted and domestic and foreign press are censored. There are three official newspapers: Al-Baath, Al-Thawra, and Tishreen. The licensing of private publications characterized a short period in the “Damascus spring” after Bashar al-Assad’s ascension to power in 2000, but a subsequent press law of 2001 imposed restrictions. Syrian radio and television are government owned. Syrian TV operates two domestic channels and a satellite service, and there are two national radio channels. Because the use of satellite receivers is permitted, many Syrians have access to foreign television programs. The Internet is censored by the Syrian state and various websites are blocked.
The Palestinian media have to operate between Israeli occupation and the control of the PNA (population 3.7 million) The public Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation and Voice of Palestine radio have been the mouthpiece of the PNA. Numerous private television stations, such as Al-Watan or Al-Alam, exist but they are often restricted to certain regions. Expressing opinions differing from those of the PNA has led repeatedly to the punishment of several media outlets. Al-Quds and Al-Ayyam dailies are privately owned, whereas Al-Hayat Al-Jadida is partially owned by the Palestinian authority, but all are considered supporters of the PNA.
With approximately the same size population as Lebanon, Jordan’s media sector does not come close to the vibrant Lebanese media market. Ar-Rai and the Jordan Times are published by the Jordanian Press Foundation, whereas Ad-Dustour is owned by the Sherif family. All papers, including the formerly independent Arab al-Yawm, are considered pro-government. After restructuring in 2001, Jordanian Television comprises of three terrestrial channels (one full program, a movie channel, and a sports channel) and a satellite channel. Radio Jordan has three national radio stations, broadcasting in Arabic, English, and French. Television and radio are state run and the news reports mainly about the activities of the king and his government. With the Press and Publication Law of 1999, censorship of journalists was to be diminished, but security services still interfere in media content and a climate of self-censorship prevails. The concentration of Internet cafés is high, especially in cities near universities, but the Internet is mainly used for chat.
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- BarıÍ, R. (2006). Media landscape Turkey. At www.ecj.nl/jr/emland.turkey.html, accessed September 5, 2006.
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- Rugh, W. (2004) Arab mass media: Newspapers, radio, and television in Arab politics. Westport, CT: Praeger.