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One year ago in Euromedia, we reported on the immediate aftermath of the Arab Spring, its affect on broadcasters in the region and the part they had played in what seemed, at the time, the largely positive overthrow of dictators.
Even then, the risk of the joy of demonstrators in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and beyond turning to something darker as lawlessness provided a handmaiden for extremism, was never far away. So far the signs are mixed at best, and current upheavals in the Maghreb point to an inherently unstable region being taken to the brink of anarchy once more.
A defining characteristic of these countries is that they are former colonies of ‘old’ European powers and often have broadcasting establishments with echoes of their previous ‘landlords’. And the programming, the technology and the style of media is often stuck in the past. That’s to say nothing of its often only skin deep independence.
There are many competing top priorities as these countries try and define their new destinies; not least addressing poverty, corruption, and historic factionalism. But an effective free electronic media that is ‘made in…..’ rather than beamed in from some point – and inevitably some point of view – outside, is arguably a vital ingredient of both unity and modernisation. It doesn’t just mean a localised CNN clone ‘above the fray’ and reporting as everything goes to hell, it means the means – technical, training, talent – to make and transmit drama, comedy, sport that is homemade and means something to its audience.
Even in a our audience fragmented world, a nation watching TV that interests, fascinates, or amuses is still an important and uniting cultural phenomenon. If broadcasters ‘in the west’ can help get new, or renewed, broadcasters and programme makers on air in their own land, then that is an important contribution.
You will be able to download Chris Forrester’s article on Middle East broadcasting by the end of January (click on the Euromedia cover on the Home Page.) The article from January 2012 is available now.