Hammond on Saudi Arabia's media empire

When Andrew Hammond writes about Arab media, I read attentively -- from Arab Media & Society:

Powered by vast petrodollar resources, thus began a concerted Saudi attempt to dominate the world of cable and satellite television media in the Arab world and steal the thunder of Egypt, once the leader of Arab media in the 1950s and 1960s with its Arab nationalist political ideology. Egypt’s once omnipotent “media of mobilization” (i‘lam ta‘bawi) gave way to Saudi Arabia’s “media of pacification”, or i‘lam tanwimi—a new soporific media of arguably far greater proportions and reach than anything Gamal Abdel-Nasser ever had, where entertainment helps put the political mind to sleep and politics is maintained within strict limits. If Abdel-Nasser wanted you fi-shari‘ (on the streets), Al Saud wants you fi-sala (in the living room).

[...]

In conclusion, Saudi Arabia has made an immense effort to control the flow of information in the Arab world and assure positive coverage of its politics and society, or often to assure no coverage at all. This effort has involved saturating the Arab viewer in Arab and Western entertainment in the form of dramas, quiz shows, comedies, films, and “soft religion” and only as much politics as is necessary. Saudi Arabia’s pan-Arab media empire promotes specific messages which present themselves as “liberal”, “reformist”, “moderate” and “modern”, but they are also conspicuously Washington-friendly and anti-al-Qa‘ida, Hizbullah, Iran or any other body presenting a challenge to the Pax Americana in the Arab world and the governments who form part of that constellation.
Much there about the al-Arabiya / Al Jazeera wars and more. And buy Andrew's book on Arab pop culture and his new one on What the Arabs think of America too!

(Via Kafr al-Hanadwa)
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.