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Western media companies are in the works, as well. A
Saudi company, Rotana, and U.S.-based Bloomberg are
jointly launching Alarab, while British-based Sky Broad-
casting has plans to introduce a channel called Sky Arabia,
in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media Investment.
Al-Jazeera, which changed its top executive last Sep-
tember, has begun shifting to more locally focused pro-
gramming. For instance, it has started a separate channel
targeting Egyptian viewers.
Social Media and Politics:
A Rising Liberal Democratic Tide?
While weekly use of Arab satellite TV is at nearly a sat-
uration point in Egypt, according to surveys, use of online
news sources also continues to grow rapidly. Surveys show
that more than a quarter of Egyptians and more than a
third of Tunisians have Internet access, with access and
usage growing steadily since last year.
A November 2011 poll released by U.S.-based Zogby
Research shows that about 9 in 10 respondents in Egypt
and Tunisia use social media sites as a source of news and
information, far more than other regional countries sur-
veyed. Most accessed these sites at home, but use of smart
phones was increasing dramatically.
At the same time, however, Zogby’s polling shows tra-
ditional sources of news such as television and newspapers
remain dominant. Even among younger or university-ed-
ucated Arabs, the heaviest users of social media, traditional
media still rated highest in news reliability. For many
Arabs, “the jury is still out on the trustworthiness and ob-
jectivity of Internet- and social media-derived news,” the
Zogby report said.
Voting patterns in the two countries also belie the im-
pression, spread during the Arab Spring, that a rising lib-
eral democratic populace stood ready to seize the political
reins. Experts say the best-organized social forces in both
states continue to be conservative Islamic groups. The vic-
tories in the late-2011 votes bear this out, though in the
Egyptian case it remains unclear that the military clique
will cede power easily.
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