Until a few years ago, most Arab states owned the ways and means to broadcast news. As such, the government controlled what people could see.
Then the global satellite TV telecommunication revolution exploded. It wasn't long before there was an Arab version of CNN -- Al-Jazeera. And just like CNN, Al-Jazeera soon had competition. Today, there are more than 750 satellite stations on the air in the Middle East [source: Dajani].
Al-Jazeera provides millions of Arabs with unfiltered news and political debate. The channel's viewership is in the tens of millions. The result has been that the region has seen remarkable growth in open discourse [source: Campagna]. Al-Jazeera also provides Arabs a vision of the news that is much different than what is seen in the West [source: Dajani].
An entire generation has been influenced by the programs and images on satellite TV. Experts believe that Al-Jazeera and its competitors are mainly responsible for educating ordinary Arabs in the ways of politics, and for raising awareness of international affairs, not to mention images of Western culture and politics. Arabs began demanding more from their governments [source: Soliman and Feuilherade].
When social unrest in North Africa and the Middle East began early in 2011, the revolutionaries combined the technology of the Internet and social networking with satellite TV. They used the media to organize, and post videos and pictures of the turbulence. TV satellites then transmitted those images around the world, spreading revolutionary fervor.
Although many credit "new" media for playing a huge role during the revolutions, the majority of people in the Middle East do not have access to the Internet. Without satellite TV, most Arabs would not have seen the demonstrations or the response of governments [source: Dajani].
Thanks to satellite TV, various minority groups are starting to make strides combating discrimination. The issues women face in the Arab world have found an international audience. In 2009, a Saudi TV station aired a rape scene in a drama series, which would have been unthinkable a few years ago. By making the problems more public, the producers hoped to shed light on violence against women [source: Jerusalem Post].
Satellite TV has, and probably will continue to change the face of nations, as long as all of us tune in.
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More Great Links
- Ainsworth, Diane. "24-hour news through the looking glass." University of California at Berkeley. July 12, 2000. (April, 2011). http://berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/2000/07/12/news.html
- Campagna, Joel. "Pre-empting the Satellite TV Revolution." Committee to Protect Journalists. (April, 2011). http://www.cpj.org/2009/02/satellite-tv-middle-east.php
- Dajani, Jamal. "The Arab Media Revolution." Frontline World. March 27, 2007. (April, 2011). http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/newswar/war_arabmedia.html
- Federal Communication Commission. "The History of…Satellite TV Systems." (April, 2011). http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/kidszone/history_sat_tv.html
- Pew Researcher Center. "Most Are Attentive to News About Disaster in Japan." March 22, 2011. (April, 2011). http://people-press.org/2011/03/22/most-are-attentive-to-news-about-disaster-in-japan/
- Soliman, Amani and Feuiherade, Peter. "Al-Jazeera's popularity and impact." Nov. 1, 2006. (April, 2011). http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6106424.stm
- Strobel, Warren P. "The CNN Effect." American Journalism Review. May, 1996. (April, 2011). http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=3572
- The Jerusalem Post. "Saudi TV airs controversial rape scene." April, 21, 2009. (April, 2011). http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=139753
- White, Andrew. From the living room to the world: The globalization of television news." Globalization and the Media. (April, 2011). http://homepage.newschool.edu/~chakravs/andrew.html