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raelis in its coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
When the Arab revolts began to pick up steam in late
2010 and early 2011, Al-Jazeera did something else be-
yond traditional news reporting, wrote Philip Seib, direc-
tor of public diplomacy at the University of Southern
California. In a Sept. 27, 2011, “Snapshot” for foreign
affairs.com, Seib observed:
“Al-Jazeera made a point of aggregating social media
content, repurposing YouTube video, reproducing Face-
book material, and delivering Twitter messages to its TV
viewers. Because many countries across the Arab world
still have limited Internet access, but boast very high per-
centages of satellite TV viewers, Al-Jazeera bridged a vital
communications gap.”
The Arab Public Opinion Survey of six countries re-
leased in November 2011 (including Egypt but not
Tunisia) found that Al-Jazeera is favored as a source of in-
formation by 43 percent of respondents, followed by Al-
Arabiya (14 percent) and Saudi-based MBC (12 percent).
Arabs tend to watch multiple international channels, says
Shibley Telhami, director of the poll. But, he adds, “Al-
Jazeera is succeeding in large part because they are cater-
ing to Arab identity.”
Meanwhile, competition among pan-Arab broadcast-
ers is intense. In addition to its main local rival, Al-Arabiya,
Al-Jazeera faces challenges on around-the-clock coverage
from international giants like the BBC. U.S.-funded Al-
hurra is also an emerging choice in Egypt. A flash phone
survey conducted amid the February 2011 revolt showed
that 25 percent of respondents in Cairo and Alexandria
watched Alhurra for coverage of the events.
“When broader surveys were conducted in June and
July 2011 in Egypt, 21.9 percent of respondents across
the country named Alhurra as one of the stations they
used to follow the Egyptian Revolution,” says Letitia
King, director of public affairs for the Broadcasting
Board of Governors, which oversees Alhurra. The sta-
tion is requesting $2 million for three new shows focused
on Egypt for Fiscal Year 2013 .
At least two more 24-hour news channels backed by
M A Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
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