On May 3, the English language website of the Saudi-owned newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat carried the following report by Lahem al-Nasser: "There has been a focus upon Islamic banking by different forms of media, including television, over the past two years. The programs that are broadcast by television channels range between talks shows and programs that issue religious edicts.
"However, to the viewers who watch these shows, whether they are experts in the field or ordinary members of the public, it is clear that there are many flaws on various levels even though some of them are exclusive to the field of Islamic banking.
"Perhaps the cause behind these shortcomings is related to the lack of experience and knowledge amongst those who work on such programs, especially the presenters. The weaknesses are reflected in the choice of subject matter as it is apparent that topics are often repeated and insignificant to the majority of people who are interested in this field.
"Furthermore, guests who are invited to appear on these shows are not members of the Islamic banking sector in most cases. The points that they make are often superficial, issues are not discussed in depth and problems are not raised in a professional manner. What makes matters worse is that the presenter fails to understand the points raised by the guest speaker and this causes embarrassment to the guest at times when the presenter tries to divert from the topic or asks for clarification on a point that he has failed to understand.
"This deficiency in the quality of television programs that deal with Islamic banking has turned viewers away from these shows leading to their cancellation and a reduction in this genre.
"The truth is that the audience and those who work within the Islamic banking field yearn for such programs that specialize in Islamic banking as long as they are produced in a professional manner that satisfies viewers and their need for knowledge and that issues are raised with clarity for the concerned individuals and decision makers away from falsehood or flattery and in an objective manner far from false accusations and preconceptions. This can only be achieved by experienced individuals with knowledge of Islamic banking.
"If people want these shows about Islamic banking to be successful then these channels must seek to bring together the professional competencies of this field to work as presenters, or at least advisers, to suggest the topics that should be tackled and recommend suitable guests. In addition, these channels should be diligent towards familiarizing hosts – if they do not belong to the field of Islamic banking – to a suitable level by enrolling them on training courses related to Islamic banking that would teach them the basics of this system.
"A significant field such as that of Islamic banking, and the speed of its growth that reaches an average of 20% per year and 35% in some countries, is a huge market for advertising. It is worth television channels gaining a foothold in this market where financial, Islamic and traditional institutions that provide Islamic services are competing to gain access to target consumers by all available means with the aim of selling their services, establishing trademarks and strengthening the confidence that their customers have in them.
"Perhaps an indication of the lucrative gains to be made by these channels from such programs is the success of Islamic banking articles that are published in newspapers in attracting advertisers and the fact that Islamic and traditional financial institutions that provide Islamic services compete for this.
"Specialized publishing institutions have become aware of this fact as they have become more active in this field by establishing magazines that specialize in Islamic banking in both the Arabic and English languages.
"Will we soon be watching professional programs about Islamic banking on pioneering channels? I hope so for the benefit of the viewer." - Asharq al-Awsat, United Kingdom