Media Hubs of the Middle East
Written by Stephen Talbot. Additional Research: Ariana Reguzzoni, Adi Sambamurthy, and Zach Stauffer
- + War of Ideas
- Watch "War of Ideas"
- Interview With the Reporter
- Extended Interviews
- The Arab Media Revolution
- Middle East Media Hubs
- + Requiem
- Watch "Requiem"
- A Turkish Winter
- Reporting in Iraq: A "Catastrophe" for Journalists
- Death Toll
- Russia: Silencing Dissent
- Conflict and Censorship
- The Guardian "Unlimited"
- South Korea: Everyone's A Journalist
Roll over and click on the map to learn more about where Arab media is concentrated.
Home of more than a dozen television networks, including the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC), Future TV (founded by former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005), and Hezbollah's Al Manar TV.
A small country of less than 4 million people, Lebanon is a former French colony and has long been a crossroads between the West and the Middle East. It has a majority Muslim population, including Sunnis, Shiites, and Druze as well as a large Christian minority. Though haunted by a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990 and troubled by ongoing religious and political tensions, Lebanon has a vibrant, well-educated, highly literate population, especially in cosmopolitan Beirut. Historically, Lebanon has had an active and independent press, with newspapers published in Arabic, English, French, and Armenian.
More recently, Beirut has become a hub for Arab-language satellite TV networks, disseminating news and entertainment programs throughout the Middle East. A more open society than many countries in the region, Lebanon has become a leading producer of lifestyle and entertainment programs, including music videos, which have proved very popular throughout the region but have also caused controversy among fundamentalists.
Israeli forces bombed Hezbollah's Al Manar network during last summer's war, but the satellite network managed to continue broadcasting throughout the fighting.
Headquarters of Al Jazeera, the leading Arab satellite network, which reaches an estimated audience of 50 million viewers. Al Jazeera was started in 1996 by Qatar's ruling monarch, Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
The network became the first successful pan-Arab news service, offering viewers an alternative to parochial state-controlled television.
Al Jazeera made Qatar, a small Persian Gulf state, a major player in world news and information. Qatar was settled by Bedouin nomads from the Arab peninsula and was a British protectorate until 1971. Once a very poor country, it has been completely transformed by oil and gas wealth. Qatar's population is less than 900,000, most of whom live in the capital city, Doha. Foreign workers, drawn mostly from Pakistan and nearby Arab states, make up more than half the population.
Frequently criticized by Arab governments for giving voice to dissidents, Al Jazeera has also been denounced in the West for airing tapes by Osama bin Laden and for being biased against Israel and the West. Yet, Qatar is also home to the U.S. military's Central Command for Afghanistan and Iraq.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
On the outskirts of the rapidly expanding, ultramodern city of Dubai lays the Technology, Electronic Commerce and Media Free Zone, started in 2000 as a high-tech haven for business and uncensored media.
Reuters and CNN have set up shop here, along with the Saudi-owned Middle East Broadcast Center (MBC), which moved here from London. MBC owns the Al Arabiya satellite network, the main rival to Al Jazeera. The zone has also attracted companies like Microsoft and Sony.
The United Arab Emirates is a small country on the Persian Gulf made up of seven distinct states. It has a population of about four and a half million, but only one-fifth of the residents are actually citizens. Most are foreign workers, drawn by the booming construction business. They tend to come from Pakistan, the Philippines, and other countries across Asia. Oil now accounts for about one-third of the country's GDP. The UAE federation has a number of ports and boasts one of the largest man-made harbors in the Gulf. Increasingly, Dubai has become an international destination and continues to attract Internet and news media companies to diversify its economy and consolidate its status as a regional media hub.
Long known as the cinema capital of the Arab world, Egypt also makes television dramas, soap operas, and talk shows that are distributed throughout the Middle East.
Nile TV International, owned by the Egyptian government, is headquartered in Cairo.
With an ancient history and the largest population of any Arab country -- some 72 million people -- Egypt has long occupied a central political and cultural role in the Arab world. But in the last decade, Al Jazeera and other Arab satellite television networks based in the Gulf region have eclipsed Egypt's influence, particularly in broadcast media.
President Hosni Mubarak has ruled Egypt for more than a quarter century. His government owns controlling stock in three of Cairo's largest daily newspapers: Al Ahram, Al Akbar, and Al Gumhuriya. The president personally appoints the newspapers' editors, so their content is often self-censored.
Though it has a large army and a sophisticated elite, Egypt is a poor country, and only half the population is literate. The majority of Egyptians are Sunni Muslims. Egypt is the birthplace of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, yet Mubarak has been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East.