Call for more Arab media regulation

Not for the first time have senior Arab broadcasters called for greater regulation of their industry. The Arab Media Summit meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, heard calls for satellite television to be regulated “because [some stations] have caused havoc among people”, according to a leading broadcaster.

Speaking on the first day of the Asia Media Summit at the Jeddah Hilton, Salaheddine Maaoui, director general of the Arab States Broadcasting Union, said there are nearly 1,300 channels in the Arab world, “broadcasting all kind of stuff resulting in chaos and confusion.”

“Only 15 per cent of these channels are owned by the government, the rest belong to private citizens. Anyone who has the money can set the agenda of a channel. There are no checks and balances, the government has little control over these channels,” he said during a session entitled, “Proliferation of Satellite Channels: Boon or Bane,” and as reported by Arab News.

Satellite stations, he said, have mushroomed over the last two decades. “Before, you could count them on your fingers. Not anymore.”  The one good aspect of these channels is that Arabs now have more freedom of expression and greater variety. “However, the flipside of it is that there is no control. There is no legislation to govern them,” he said.

He said there are regulations in other parts of the world to keep a check on spurious content being broadcast. “In the Arab world, we have no regulations. This is our weakness,” he said. “We should have unified Arab standards to monitor what is aired on satellite television channels.”

To a comment from Maha Akeel, from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), that the market would eventually weed out the bad stations, Maaoui said: “We have regulations in the first world. They have regularised satellite television. There has to be monitoring because of the bad effects such channels have. Also, the moment regulations are talked about, people become fearful that we are talking about government control. No, we are talking about certain media ethics that one should adhere to. We are not calling for suppressing information. We are calling for airing of better and credible information for the general good of society.”

According to Maaoui, the Arab League did try to introduce some broad rules. “But the implementation was left to individual countries. As a result, their efforts did not bear fruit. The planning was great but the execution sloppy,” he said. “Now they are working again to put some regulations in place.”

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