Do National political systems still influence Arab media?
Nevertheless, the Arab television producers have been careful to adapt and modify Western program format ideas to make sure that the content fits within local Arab political and social norms. The experience of MBC in trying and failing to replicate Big Brother in Bahrain in 2004, for example, showed that there were clear limits to the importation of Western ideas into Arab television.  Also, when Arab television producers have presented Western material (such as Hollywood films) on Arab television channels as originally prepared for a Western audience, they have carefully reviewed it in advance to be sure it is acceptable within the political and social norms of the Arab country that they are in.
On the regional level, the proliferation of satellite television channels in Arabic, by and for Arabs, has also had a powerful impact on the media scene. Al Jazeera broke taboos, but other Arab channels also brought news and commentary in Arabic into Arab homes in ways that had not happened before. Yet considering the picture as a whole, and looking at the amount of access that various Arab groups have to information and opinion, it is clear that the cultural, economic and especially political conditions that exist in individual countries still influence media behavior in important ways. The trend to greater regionalization and globalization of media has therefore complicated but not completely negated the usefulness of an analysis that focuses on national political systems.
Local political and social realities are still important, despite globalization and regionalization of the media, and they still affect the access to news and information that individual Arabs enjoy. Thus in a country where the diverse system exists, like Lebanon, the citizens of that country still tend to have access to a greater variety of sources of information and opinion than they do in countries where mobilization systems exist as in Syria. It is true that in both Lebanon and Syria people watch satellite television coming from outside their borders, but the media environments, and the political systems in which the media operate, are still different.
Modifications in any analysis of Arab media must be made on a continuing basis, because the Arab media scene is changing rapidly now. It is no longer as static as it was in the past, and to paint an accurate picture we need to follow closely the media developments in each Arab country and the region as a whole, adjusting our analysis accordingly. Significant changes have taken place in the past decade, in contrast to the immediately preceding decades, making shifts in the typology necessary. It has therefore now become more difficult to predict what will happen to media systems in the coming years. It may be, for example, that more countries will follow the recent examples of Yemen and Iraq and move into the diverse media category because of changes that take place in their national political systems. And media in other countries, perhaps affected by the great increase in cross-border media penetration from satellite television and the Internet, may show increased signs of diversity, and even become “transitional” as they seek a new formula for media organization. At the same time, individual media outlets, such as Al Manar, may become more strident voices for advancing specific political agendas of reminiscent of a mobilization broadcaster as their patrons struggle against their political adversaries. Yet Al Manar is only able to play that role because it exists within the permissive environment of the diverse Lebanese media structure that is in turn based on a pluralistic Lebanese national political system.
Challenges facing the study of Arab media
There are several challenges that must be dealt with in studying Arab media today.
First, the topic of cultural “convergence” involving the dissemination of Western media products and imitation of non-Arab media innovations deserves more study. One question is how far regionalization and globalization have influenced Arab media content. Another is how non-Arab ideas have been adapted to fit the Arab social and political environment—a question that should help shed light on the characteristics of that environment. The Danish cartoon controversy, for example, illustrated the diminished size of our world because of the information technology revolution, and also it revealed some aspects of Arab media behavior.
Secondly, an important new development in the field of communication has been the blurring of the lines between news and commentary on the one hand and entertainment on the other. My focus has been on news play and editorial commentary because that is where the politically important content of the media have been found, and consequently where the state authorities and other political actors have focused their attention. Now politically interesting content has appeared in entertainment programs like the rapidly proliferating Arab “reality television.” As several astute observers have pointed out recently in important studies published in this journal’s predecessor, Transnational Broadcasting Studies, and elsewhere, Arab reality TV has become an important vehicle for conveying politically interesting ideas, and it has also, at the same time, become a mirror that reflects some important political realities of the Arab world. Thus, for example, such entertainment programs as Star Academy, that are supposedly non-political, turn out to have significant political content that some scholars have begun to study. That is an important line of inquiry that needs to be pursued further, and it can probably be best done by native speakers of Arabic because they understand linguistic and cultural nuances well.
A third challenge is that there are now many more channels of information available to Arabs than in the past, and to some extent they influence each other. But as a practical matter one must be selective, because it is impossible to analyze everything. How should the selection be made? As noted above, I have confined my study only to newspapers, magazines, radio and television, because these were the only means of communication that were “mass media”, edited from a single point and intended for the general public, and they reach large audiences. Yet it is important that studies be undertaken to analyze the newer means of communication such as e-mail, websites, videocassettes, DVDs, and SMS text messaging, as some have started doing.  This can be probably be done best in parallel to studies of print and broadcasting.
Fourth, even when the subject is of manageable size, determining influence over the content of the media is difficult. Editorial decisions in news selection and editorial writing cannot be easily pinned down by quantitative analysis, a method that would not work for 18 countries because of the sheer volume of material. In my studies I depended instead on the opinions of reliable observers, being careful to include observations from people with different political points of view.
A fifth challenge is how to cope with the important question of the impact of Arab media on Arab politics. I dealt with that subject only very briefly in my studies, but others have looked into it in more detail. Some observers expected that the “Al Jazeera effect” and the spread of Arab satellite television and the intensification of pan-Arab discussions would lead to significant growth of Arab democracy. Others say that these expectations do not seem to have materialized, at least so far. This issue, too, deserves further study, although it is difficult to gather reliable data on it.
The many new developments in Arab media deserve close scrutiny by serious students of Arab media. Yet I remain convinced that national political systems that exist in each Arab country remain a very significant factor in determining the role of Arab media in politics. Although that factor has been diminished somewhat because of new communication technology, it is still potent and must be taken into account.
William A. Rugh, is an editorial board member of Arab Media & Society. He currently is an Associate at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Georgetown University, U.S. He is also on the Executive Committees of the Public Diplomacy Council and AMIDEAST, and is an Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute.
 Noha Mellor’s book, The Making of Arab News, has devoted a chapter to taking issue with my typology, and although its author has unfortunately misunderstood many of my main points, I do not intend to devote space in this essay to correcting her errors but instead will try to summarize and reevaluate my basic approach. For her criticisms, see chapter 3 in Noha Mellor, The Making of Arab News, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2005. At the request of a journalism class at AUC, I wrote a detailed paper correcting her misreading of my book, and I shared it with her, but I have not published it.
 Fred S. Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm, Four Theories of the Press, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1963, chapters 1-4.
 Ibid., p. 1
 Readers interested in more details of the typology can consult the extended descriptions in the books.
 Mellor, op.cit., pp. 59, 70 misunderstands this point on ownership.
 Arab Mass Media, op.cit, pp.43-38 see especially table 3.1 on p.44
 Arab Mass Media, op.cit., pp.116-17, 170, 209-10, 243-44
 Interview with the UAE Information Minister
 Mellor, op.cit, pp. 51, 61-63, 70 includes émigré newspapers.
 See the special section on reality TV in the TBS print edition, vol.1, no.2, pp.7-84, especially Marwan Kraidy, “Reality Television and Politics in the Arab World”, and Marc Lynch “Reality is Not Enough”; also Marc Lynch, Voices of the New Arab Public, New York: Columbia University Press, 2005
 Idem.; for details of the Bahrain story, see Transnational Broadcasting Studies, vol. 1, no.2, pp. 14-17, 33, 56-57
 See Kraidy and Lynch, cited in footnote 11.
 E.g. Habib Battah: “SMS: The Next TV Revolution”, TBS 2006, and see Lawrence Pintak and Marc Lynch in Arab Media and Society, March 2007
 This was a technique I had used in the 1960s when I wrote my PhD dissertation on “The Politics of Broadcasting in Germany”, and it seemed to work well enough to give me a reasonably accurate picture of the role of the media in the political process.
 Marc Lynch, Voices of a New Arab Public, passim., and “Reality is Not Enough” op. cit, pp.35-43
 Marc Lynch, “Reality Is Not Enough”, pp.29-45