The Arab public is increasingly tuning out Arab programming and tuning in to foreign stations.
According to Arab News, the recent field study conducted by an Arab university professor revealed that a majority of the Arab public prefers foreign television programs to those on Arab stations. A similar study by the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, corroborated this finding.
Dr. Al-Qulaini of Ayn Shams University surveyed viewers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and found that almost 54% of respondents opt for viewing foreign television shows. 46% expressed greater interest in tuning into Arab satellite programming.
Al-Hayat survey incorporated the input from a wide range of young Arab men and women from Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. A mere 33% of those polled preferred Arab programming, compared to a sizeable 67% who are ardent fans of foreign television.
While these results may be not be surprising to many, the studies provide insight into the cause for the foreign preference. Dr. Qulaini conveyed that "Foreign channels show respect for the intelligence of their viewers." A second point is that viewers of foreign television appear to be generally impressed by the balance of information and entertainment, which these stations provide. Dr. Qulaini also indicated that the heavy emphasis on news (particularly live news coverage) is something that fascinates those in the Arab world who turn to foreign programming.
Al-Hayat newspaper study revealed that the younger generation in particular, enjoyed foreign programming for the following reasons: advanced technology, objectivity in coverage, honesty and integrity in the portrayal of social problems, freedom of expression, and good overall program quality.
Whether these findings are troubling can be debated, but the experts contend that it is unreasonable for the Arab media to continue to treat the public with the outlook of the 60s and 70s. In those days, the viewers were much more limited in what they could watch and had to be satisfied. The experts advocate that Arab satellite channels need to improve their programs to earn credibility, trust and the interest of the public.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)