Thursday, March 27
Where do Iraqis get their news?

By Kathryn Westcott, BBC News Online, March 27, 2003

Iraqi state television and radio has been struggling to broadcast over the past few days, following US bombing raids on Baghdad. And in Basra, the country's second city, British forces have taken state media off the air completely after destroying transmitters in the early hours of Thursday.

So, how does this leave Iraqis in terms of their access to coverage of the war? [...]

Arab media go to war
Paul Harper, BBC News, March 27, 2003

Alongside the military campaign in Iraq, a battle is being waged in the Arab media to be the first to bring the most dramatic pictures to people's television screens.

It is the first time war in the Middle East has been fought live on Arab television, and the impact could be far-reaching.

Satellite television came of age in the last Gulf War, pioneered by the American news channel, CNN.

That was the station people worldwide tuned to, to see the very latest pictures, or even to watch events live.

Since then, Arab governments and companies have invested heavily in technology that allows them to broadcast news as it happens to anyone with a satellite dish.

'Insatiable demand'

The best known of these new Arab TV stations is al-Jazeera, which has transformed its host country, Qatar, from a tiny Gulf state largely unknown outside the region, into a major force in Arab and international politics. [al-Jazeera is the only non-Iraqi broadcaster in Basra ]

War produces an almost insatiable demand for the latest images and information.

And it was 11 September 2001 and the ensuing war in Afghanistan that made al-Jazeera essential viewing in the Middle East, just as CNN had been in the Gulf War a decade earlier.

Just as CNN had been the only source of live pictures of bombs falling on Baghdad in 1991, al-Jazeera became the only source of live pictures of the American assault on Kabul and the latest videotaped messages from Osama bin Laden.

CNN was quickly challenged by other international broadcasters, including the BBC, and al-Jazeera is now fighting for viewers with other Arab TV stations that are only too aware of the importance of this new instantaneous medium-- in the battle for hearts and minds.

New contenders

Some of the most dramatic pictures in the current conflict, such as the aerial bombardment of Baghdad, have been relayed by government-run Abu Dhabi Television, based in the United Arab Emirates.

A few weeks ago, a new contender joined the fray in the shape of al-Arabiyya, a slick-looking satellite news service backed by Saudi money and based in Dubai. Arab news junkies - who in these days of crisis in the Middle East include just about anyone with access to a satellite dish - are likely to be channel-hopping between al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi and al-Arabiyya.

One other button on the remote control in danger of being worn down is al-Manar - the impressively well-produced news station of the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. [...]Arab viewers are grateful they are no longer dependent on the Americans to watch events as they're unfolding.

But the governments are probably apprehensive that graphic, instantaneous images of the fighting are becoming a big factor in fuelling popular anger about a war that is almost universally opposed in the Arab world.
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