Al Jazeera vs. Al Arabiya: are we getting sick of the former?

20/1/2006

First I want offer a big discralimer here: I almost watch no TV. I can honestly claim less than one hour of TV per week. Amazing but true. Nonetheless I was intrigued by the news coming out today about statistics showing Al-Arabiya is overtaking Al Jazeera in some Arab markets. This certainly reflects some of the sentiments of people around me. No one can ignore Al Jazeera when the news breaks. They are perceived to be the fastest in getting the news. This is certainly what I did the night Amman was bombed on November 9. But as as the events unfolded I found myself switching more and more to Al-Arabiya. A number of people I talked to said that they did the same (this is by no means statistical evidence, just a personal impression). One of the things that pissed people off was Yasser Abu Hilaleh’s reporting that mentioned that the Israeli embassy is located near the Days Inn hotel which was one of the hotels targeted.

From my talks to friends, people also seem to be frustrated by Al Jazeera’s portrayal of the Arab situation. My personal interpretation of this is that Al Jazeera’s ‘brand’ is, at least partially starting to stands for ‘bad news’, anger, overt controversy and/or sensationalism. Personally, I got really sick with Al Jazeera a few years ago, when they aired ‘Minbar Al Jazeera’ (Al Jazeera Forum), which is a viewer call-in program. People that go by names like ‘Abu Akram from Sweden’ call in with opinions that are just so extreme and mindless, like one guy suggesting a plan to destroy Israel by hiring Sri Lankan mercenaries (!) that would pump diesel into lake Tiberias and start a thousand fires across Israeli cities!

People like that get the full chance to air their views without being challenged in anyway by the Al Jazeera anchorman. When I compare that to the way the BBC’s Arabic service handles its call-in shows I can’t help but be dismayed with Al Jazeera. On the BBC everyone gets the chance to talk, including mindless extremists. But the presenters challenge all the views presented and try to balance the discussion.

This is an excerpt from the report by Worldcasting’s Alvin Snyder about the IPSOS-Stat produced study:

USC Center on Public Diplomacy | WorldCasting In a monthly charting of audience ratings prepared exclusively for Worldcasting by the premier independent Middle East television survey organization IPSOS-STAT, the Saudi government-financed Al-Arabiya surpassed Al Jazeera in audience viewer rankings for the first time in the history of the two channels. IPSOS-STAT says that in 2003 and 2004 “the gap between the two stations was very big” in Saudi Arabia, with Al Jazeera holding a significant lead.

IPSOS-STAT says that the weakening viewership of Al Jazeera is not confined to Saudi Arabia, which is inhabited by some 18 million persons, “most of whom are wealthy with high purchasing power.” The trend shows a weakening of Al Jazeera’s former lead throughout the region, with Al Arabiya getting stronger, although Al Jazeera is still leading in Kuwait, for example.

Could it be that some Middle East viewers are tiring of Al Jazeera, which is often perceived as a more “radical and Islamic” network? This image of Al Jazeera as a conduit for terrorist videos is currently being reinforced with the video obtained from kidnappers showing Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who is being held hostage, and the Osama bin Laden audio tape threatening another attack on the United States.

Also read Abu Aardvark weighing in on the matter.

25 Comments

  1. I really like your analysis but injecting Yasser Abu Hilaleh here in this particular topic was in my opinion a cheap shot.

  2. Humeid says:

    I am not aiming a “cheap shot” at anyone. I am very sorry you see that way. I am commenting on Al Jazeera’s performance from a personal point of view. I don’t watch Al Jazeera all the time (as I readily confessed in my disclaimer). The last time I watched it intensively was during the Amman bombings. So, I am conveying what I felt and what some people told me concerning Mr Abu Hilaleh’s coverage. In any case there was a lot of talk that in the Jordanian press and Mr Abu Hilaleh wrote in Al-Ghad in defence of his coverage.

    No shots here, cheap or expensive.

  3. iDip says:

    I think that if Al-Jazeera’s & Al-Arabiya’s NEWS coverage were compared, you’ll find that Al-Jazeera has more ‘opinion’ in their NEWS than Al-Arabiya…

    That’s why I agree with Al-Arabiya’s motto
    اقرب الى الحقيقة
    “closer to truth”

    yet no NEWS channel is the “closest” to truth.

  4. Please note that I have never heard of Mr. Abu Hilaleh until I saw his name appearing in your blog.

    If you don’t like the term cheap shot then the reference that was made about him in your piece above is below the belt.

    He is totally and completely irrelevant to the topic about Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

    When do you think the last time Mr. Abu Hilaleh did any reporting for Al Jazeera ? You guessed it was during November 9 bombing.

    I could see him being mentioned in your piece had he been reporting each and every single day, but he is a seasonal free lance, case by case basis reporter for Al-Jazeera. In other words he is a no factor in the rivalry between the two sparring stations.

    Again, it was just my opinion and it wasn’t meant to defend Mr. Abu Hilaleh but rather meant comment on your piece above.

    Best regards.

  5. Janti says:

    If you don’t watch too much, why you care?

  6. Humeid says:

    I care because I realize how big a factor these media organizations are in today’s arab culture.

    And Hatim, allow me to disagree with you again. First let me say that I respect Abu Hilaleh’s journalistic work and I really do not inted to make shots him or anything. I mention him because he was part of my personal experience of the channel.

    BTW, he is NOT a seasonal freelancer. He used to be or still is (as far as I know) the head of their Amman bureau.

    Thanks

  7. chaaban says:

    i’m like you i dont watch T.V , but on the Net , i know both site .

    I Hate subjects of Al-Arabiya , they try to publish subjects that make a lot of controversy and subject that concerns 2 groups , to make those groupe insult each other (tunis-maroc , male-female , islam , etc ..) just having the aim “BE Famous” .

    Jazeera is more Pro in Publishing news .

  8. Ahmedِ says:

    Let them both be, and let more be. Aljazeera may be good at some news that other government don’t want to broadcast.
    And what is USC Center saying! 18 million Saudi “most of whom are wealthy with high purchasing power”! That is a questionable statement. Maybe the wealthy are getting wealthier, but the middle class is eroding, unemployment is high and increasing, cost of living is increasing, we have a huge debt to pay, and are suffering from poor infrastucture and coruption. Want numbers? Too bad the Saudi government got a “D” in math.

  9. Ahmedِ says:

    … and about the Arab situation:
    We are both arabs discussing two arabic news channels and we are doing this in English!
    Now how shall we portray ourselves?

  10. Batata says:

    “My personal interpretation of this is that Al Jazeera’s ‘brand’ is, at least partially starting to stands for ‘bad news’, anger, overt controversy and/or sensationalism.”

    Dear Ahmad, AlArabiya is made up of people us who make news and content for people like us, the almost disconnected elite, those who are better off with the status quo, and those who are not interested in being reminded of the less than pleasant reality of the Arab world, as reflected by various NGO studies, including human rights, democracy, corruption, economy, literacy,…

    Al-Jazeera’s audience is the remaining chunks that makes up the disaffected, disenchanted, and/or the disenfranchised. Not the cool folks who hang around the corner cafes.

    If Alarabya can make money peddling neo-liberal stuff, fine so long as there is an audience and advertisers, and there is.

    I like to see pretty faces and nice graphics and low-substance content, when my head starts to hurt from the tragic (but true) news of Aljazeera. Alarabya delivers. But recently I decided to skip Alarabya in favor of Al-Hurra. Alarabya has an identity crisis, Al Huraa does not and neither does Al-Jazeera.

    Alarabya serves a purpose. Everyone needs a sedative eveynow and then. It’s like the arts, sometimes we like to listen to Marcel and Kabour and other times we run for Alisa “Ayshalak Ahla Sneen”

    So this is not a zero sum game. Long live hardcore news and programs and long live entertainment. I say we need both.

    here is a typical Alarabya tough question, delivered with conviction and a tone of voice that’s unmistakably uncompromising and forceful:

    “Mr. Shlomo, do you like your hamburger with mustard or not? And please Mr. Shlomo don’t dodge the question” :)

  11. Too much ‘bad news’?

    Is Al-Jazeera’s popularity waning in favour of the Saudi backed station Al-Arabiya? Ahmad Humeid notes an interesting trend that may not bode well for the station best known for making Bin Laden a media whore.
    From my talks to friends, people al…

  12. vistaman says:

    It is very well-known Al-Hurra is backed by the US 100%. I don’t understand how it can be trusted, when the US policy has been since the beginning of the so called WAR on Terror started have been openly blocking the world media from reporting the truth of their unjust war.

    I think we need Al Jazeerah or Al arabiya to break up their channel into two channels: One dedicated for News, and only news, and the other for News related programs which includes debates, reports, forums …etc.

    Anyway, Al-Hurra project is failing miserably, since it only represents those who are in favor of the US control and the illumination of reviving the Arab/Muslim dignity.

  13. noory says:

    i think they capture on usama bin laden it’s my analysis because cia
    say we Canceled usama bin laden folow unite

  14. [...] the years(me loves technology). Al-Jazeera lost it’s top-10 slot to become number 35(Ahmad Humeid’s post on Al-Jazeera), as did Coca-Cola for the first time in 3 years(interesting to note that i [...]

  15. amir says:

    i think that Saddam Hussin was the protector of all arab nations. and we’ve not to forget that saudia, egypt and jordan are always american nations

  16. day says:

    If Al-Arabiya is backed by the Saudis that does a lot to explain why it acts as Batata points out above as a social “sedative”. The Saudis mainly promote U.S. interests in the region and it would benefit the U.S. greatly to have (especially the young) audiences preoccupied with inane fluff and pseudo-news so they might not be given over to critical thinking about real issues, or (God forbid) thoughts of resistance to U.S. imperialism. Questions of mustard or no mustard are certainly easier to face than life or death. For those not immediately in the line of fire (as Batata put it “the almost disconnected elite, those who are better off with the status quo, and those who are not interested in being reminded of the less than pleasant reality of the Arab world”) it is easier to look the other way than to face the crisis. It is understandably overwhelming. I can hardly sleep at night with the little knowledge of the truth I’ve gleaned, and I am thousands of miles from the Middle East. How much more then if the carnage was in my backyard? But there is no long-term reward in the consumption of these sedatives; we all must brace ourselves to act for the love of God in full courage in every way possible for the mending of hearts and the knitting together of peoples and…I pray…for final peace. We can not act under the influence of anything but truth. So…wherever you get your news, just make sure you can trust your source to have your best interests at heart.

  17. mostaf mohamed says:

    sorry that at 9.00 AM . Arabia news broadcasts that Istreal has taken such village and it was not correct and after while your corrected the wrong news also sorry that he said Hezb Sheat instead of saying Hzb Allah or Islamic lebaneese resistance . so why he said that ? that means Arabia is failing miserably because we all mulsem in front of Isreal regardles Sheat or Sonat . But Arabia wants New Iraq in Lebanon just to satisfy the saudis and for the benefit of USA .
    so i do agree that Arabia is backed by saudis and they act as ( Batata & Mhshy cabbage too ) stop promoting saudis and usa interess in our region for the best of all of us thanks

  18. mostaf moussa says:

    in reply to Mr Amir that saudia, egypt and jordan are always american nations .
    Not as nations but as american leaders .

  19. Glibberman says:

    Al Jazeera captures the terrifying drama of real life, how so many futuristic people can die and turn into pixilated computer stuff in only a few seconds. Surprisingly enough on Al Jazeera International we see a very clean, politically correct, coverage, along the lines of a large video screen with a bald Chinese guy talking to you whilst standing amidst rows of fighting monks practicing their fireball stance with low range upper crunch sit-ups; really, an image quite beckoning to something of the BBC.
    Al Arabiya on the other hand, marks the start of a celebratory, Coke culture, or so it seems when placed in the context of its sister the channels, a cartoon channel, and two western programming channels. Or at least glibber sauce…

  20. both of aljazeera and alarabiya are pieces of crap , aljazeera particularly lacks of professionalism and it looks like each journalist is there for a personal agenda , the journalists in aljazeera do not seem to be neutral and professional they are there to serve the interests of the Emir of Qatar and to tarnish the image of the rest of the Arab countries except those from which come some high figure journalists like Syria which is left in peace because of Al Qassem …anyways I am Moroccan and I hate to see any Moroccan watching those crappy Arab channels because most of them just hate Morocco and Moroccans …the Arab media is light years from professionalism and neutrality , they simply reflect the Arab mentality which is tribal and hateful …alarabiya is dominated by the Lebanese …….since I watched the Arab media I started to hate the Arabs more and more …thanks God we in Morocco we can watch French TVs !!!!!!!

  21. sami innani says:

    ALARABIYA IS MORE PROFESSIONAL THAN ALJAZEERA, ALARABIYA IS MORE CAREFUL WHEN BROADCASTIBG ANY NEW INCIDENT UNLIKE ALJAZEERA WHICH A LOT OF TIMES BROADCASTS PREMATURELY ..
    ANOTHER IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE IS THAT ALJAZEERA GETS PEOPLE ATTRACTION SOMETIMES BY PLAYING THE OLD GAME THAT ARABS ARE VICTIMS BLA BLA , ON THE OTHER HAND ALARABIYA IS MORE REALISTIC , THE GOOD EXAMPLE OF THIS IS BINLADEN TAPES , IT MAKES LAY PEOPLE THINK THAT ARABS WILL SOON HAVE VICTORY , AND THAT ALJAZEERA IS DOING THIS INSPITE OF OPPOSITION FROM WETERN COUNTRIES,, BUT NOW PEOPLE REALIZE THAT THESE TAPES ARE FOR U.S GOVERMENT ADVANTAGE AND ALJAZEERA PROPAGANDA IS FALSE.
    ALJAZEERA USED TO GET ITS POPULARITY BY MENTIONING A LOT OF SAUDI INTERNAL AFFAIRS , THAT SAUDIS DISCOVERED LATELY THAT ALJAZEERA WAS WRONG IN A LOT OF THINGS MENTIONED, THAT IS WHY ALARABIYYA IS MORE FAMILIAR IN SAUDI ARABIA DUE TO THE FACT THAT IT DOESNT MISLEAD PEOPLE……

  22. sami innani says:

    IN SUMMARY I COULD SAY THAT ALJAZEERA IS GOOD FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE AND ALARABIYYA IS GOOD FOR PROFESSIONALS AND SENIORS

  23. sami innani says:

    Al jazeera is more Pro-american than Alarabiya

    To prove what I have mentioned, we recently discovered that bin laden tapes serves the purpose of USA , we all remember the tape broadcasted during re-election for Bush, which was investigated and approved by US foreign affairs to be aired by Aljazeera,
    so again Aljazeera gained support from people in the street,, as they do not know the facts.
    Aljazeera also sedates its viewers by victory ,resistance , religeon… to hide :
    1. The largest american military bases outside USA in Qatar
    2. The intimate relationship between Qatar and Iarael
    3. Freedom from religeon inside Qatar and construction of churches , Bars, alcohol …. etc.. I was recently in a conference in Doha and I was served alcohol very openly, which was not there 5 years ago..
    So Aljazeera serves qatar ruling family by hiding and distorting , however ,, we continue to see popularity of Aljazeera outside Saudi Arabia………

    These are facts from people who live in the region………………

  24. It worth mentioning that Arab Media have made huge progress over the recent decades. For me, the existence of both Al Jazeera and Al-Rabya is a good sign of a healthy Omma. I watch both channels and I have the ability to compare and choose the best for my mind. It is clear that AlaRbya is backing the Saudi regime in most of its coverage and analysis. However, when it comes to foreign issues, we really sense a tone of professionalism. Alajazeera has impressed the world audience by its professionalism and aggressive journalism. I do not deny that Arab Media have not been fully released from the yokes of the Arab totalitarian regimes. However, we should be optimistic about the manner, in which they cover Arab themes. instead of comparing Alajazerera with Al-Arabya, we should compare these brilliant channels with the Western Biased Media such as CNN, ABC, Fox News, Sky News………………….. If we do so, we realise that our Arab Media is on the right track regardless the minor political issues hurdling their progress

  25. walid says:

    ALJAZERA DEVIDE ARABS TO SEVERALENEMIES ARAB TRIPES. ARAB PEOPLE IN THE STREET, TO SEE OR SHOW THE DIFFERENCE IN. THERE ARE NOT HAVING THE ABILITY TO READ AND HEAR ,EVERY SITE, S0 IT IS HARDLY DIFFICULT TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, GOOD OR BAD, THEY HAVE DARK MINDESTHE MOST OF THEM GOING TO THE HILL WITHOUT THOUGHTS. THEY ARE DISTIGUISHING , THERE ARE NO ANY PARADISES WAITING FOR THEM WHILE HAMAS AND IRAN HEZEB ALLAH MAKING A CLEANING OPERATION TO THEIR MINDES…………

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