TBS 9 goes online under the shadow of an imminent second war between an American-led alliance and Iraq. How extraordinary have been the developments in transnational satellite broadcasting in the 11 or 12 years (depending whether you date the Gulf War, as the Kuwaitis do, from the Iraqi invasion in august 1990, or from the Allied counterattack in January 1991) since then, particularly when we recall that Arab satellite broadcasting is the legacy of that first war! That legacy was called into being largely by the impact of CNN coverage made available to large numbers of Arabs (very few of whom had dishes at the time) by the decision of the Egyptian and Saudi authorities to download and rebroadcast CNN coverage nearly round the clock as "D-Day" for the counterattack approached. Today, the reasonable possibility, if not probability, of another war adds still more fuel to the regional fires we addressed in the last issue (TBS 8), which is why this issue leads with a focus or cover story on Media in the Midst of War: The Sequel.
In 1990, Arabsat already existed, but no one from either government or private sector had taken its facilities seriously as vehicles for pan-Arab broadcasting. (Private Saudi publishing interests, however, had grasped the possibilities and were transmitting Al-Sharq Al-Awsat via satellite, making it the first pan-Arab newspaper downloaded and published in some of the major Arab capitals).
Consider the impact on the region of CNN's coverage of what we called Gulf War II (Iraq's invasion of Iran kicked off Gulf War I) and the need it revealed for Arab voices in global broadcasting that could compete seriously with CNN and other international broadcasters. All these factors highlighted the need for a response that government-owned stations certainly were not capable of (and this fact of life was clear to anyone except people who made their living as apologists for government-owned television.) The rest is history-a history that, according to Jon Alterman, one of four contributors to a recent Cambridge University conference on Arab satellite television in the Age of Globalization, no one has tracked better than TBS.
Given the reputation that Al Jazeera has acquired in its response to 9-11, the Afghan War, the Al-Aqsa Intifada, and the Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank (which so dominated our reportage and interviews in TBS 8), it is not surprising that the lead report in this issue is Covering Al-Qa'ida, Covering Saddam, a dialogue between Al Jazeera's top investigative correspondent Yosri Fouda and TBS senior editor S. Abdallah Schleifer. The impact, positive and negative, of Al Jazeera and Arab satellite broadcasting in general is touched upon in Sarah J. Sullivan's interview with US Ambassador Chris Ross who is now serving in Washington DC as Special Coordinator for the Public Diplomacy Office of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Ambassador Ross provides an overview of what the State Department believes it should accomplish in the field of media in these difficult times.
If CNN was all alone as a transnational broadcaster in Gulf War II (the intense coverage of the crisis by the other American and European television networks had little or no transnational and specifically Arab world implications at that time) and Al Jazeera was all alone in Kabul for much of the Afghan War, that certainly will not be the case if there is a Gulf War III. In fact, a rapidly expanding and reorganized MBC News room, based in Dubai but with fully staffed bureaus elsewhere, including Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, should be on the air sometime around the beginning of the New Year and that story runs like a thread through our other special focus-MBC: On the Move. This special report ties interviews with MBC's director general Ali Al-Hedeithy and head of news Salah Negm together with an overview from Dubai of the "New MBC" (MBC's new all-news channel and all-English language entertainment channel, MBC2), the impact of MBC's move to Dubai, and a meditation on its new look.
There is a new forum for transnational satellite and other journalists to hash out some of the issues that have so dominated TBS's concerns. It is called NewsXchange and TBS looks forward to a close association with this European Broadcasting Union-sponsored annual gathering of broadcasters. Chris Cramer, the CEO of CNNI, was the keynote speaker at their first conference and he surveyed 9-11's impact on journalism, as did a group of global broadcasters in a NewsXchange panel on Terrorism, Patriotism, and Media Coverage.
The Arab reaction, or more specifically the independent Arab satellite channels' reaction, to 9-11 one year later is the concern of the article "Why Do We Hate Them? - Arab satellite coverage of 9-11's first anniversary by our new Managing Editor Humphrey Davies that rounds out our cover story.
Quite unrelated to the gathering storm are new developments at Orbit. TBS interviews Samir Abdulhadi, Orbit's CEO, about their imminent move to Bahrain and other developments, while Hamid Ouddane, who works for Orbit and contributes to TBS, reviews Orbit's new channels and services.
Competition in covering the region and particularly the widening scope of regional conflict has inspired a very significant cross-media alliance between LBC and Al-Hayat. TBS interviewed Al-Hayat's doyen and former editor in chief Jihad Khazen and his colleague Salah Nemett, who is the managing editor of the news center now setting up in London.
This issue is an incredibly diverse one. It includes Naila Hamdy's report, constantly rewritten to keep pace with developments, on the topsy-turvy world of Egypt's El Mehwar, Noha El-Hennawy's look into ANN's struggles with financial and political pressures, and Assya Y. Ahmed's reports on the latest flack being thrown at Al Jazeera, as it finds itself under attack yet again. Assya, one of our growing staff of correspondents is no stranger to such controversies. She also reports in this issue on the closure of Lebanon's Murr TV, talking with Murr TV, its critics, and its defenders. Hassan M. Fattah explores Arab youth culture as it manifests itself in Beirut on satellite broadcaster Zen TV and TBS's editors take a quick look at two New Guys on the Block: Al-Majd 2 and Khalifa TV. And that is only the beginning, as this issue contains a total of thirty-two articles reflecting both professional and academic concerns relative to transnational broadcasting in general and Arab satellite television (always the focus of our fall-winter issues) in particular.
TBS's present look and heft is in large part the legacy of our founding managing editor Sarah J. Sullivan, who saw through it through first eight issues. Sarah is now in Washington DC as web/publications manager for the Arab American Institute. Her place as managing editor has been taken by the veteran Arabist scholar, translator, editor, and projects director Humphrey Davies on the editorial side, while Sarah's assistant Mayada Wahsh takes over responsibility for TBS web design as well as a new position for a new publication, the Adham Center for Television Journalism's own house organ, www.AdhamOnline.com, which will make interesting reading for anyone concerned about broadcasting education in the Arab world. (The Adham Center, at the American University in Cairo, publishes TBS.)
We are pleased to announce that Sarah Sullivan will continue to serve TBS as our contributing editor in Washington DC and that Jon Alterman, who has just been appointed director of the Middle East division of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, has joined our editorial advisory board.
We are also pleased to announce that our colleague Dr. Yahya R. Kamalipour, who serves on the TBS Editorial Advisory Board has launched a new electronic journal -- Global Media Journal -- which is published twice a year. The Vol.1, Issue 1 Fall 2002 edition is now available. Dr. Kamalipour serves as editor-in-chief of GMJ which can be accessed at http://lass.calumet.purdue.edu/cca/gmj and is hosted by the Department of Communication and Creative Arts, at Purdue University, Calumet.