“Bridging the North-South Divide Through Al-Jazeera” by Katrina Oh
July 26, 2015
While many scholars agree that globalization has intensified the volume of information, many question the evenness of the flow, claiming that information is directed from the global North to the global South. However, this paper argues that the case of Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera directly challenges this long-held notion: It has countered the North-South news divide by becoming the first media conglomerate based in the global South to have profound consequences not only in the Middle East but all throughout the world. Reliable news, uncensored discussions and dissenting opinions on its live shows and political debates have allowed Al-Jazeera to garner numerous accolades and awards. As both a product and agent of globalization, its activities have fostered networks of connections that transcend regional networks and span multi-continents. Information disseminated by Al-Jazeera from the tiny country of Qatar, carries now global implications. This discussion helps us recognize the progress that has been made in achieving a more equitable balance in the flow of information between the North and South since the 1970s-80s. Further, it suggests that globalization has changed the very nature of power. As power becomes increasingly contingent on credibility, the influence of non-state actors like Al-Jazeera rises while that of the nation state diminishes.
Part 1 reviews the scholarly work that has explored the nexus between media and globalization thus far. In particular, the section focuses on the debate stimulated by the MacBride Commission, which shed light on the imbalance in the flow of information between countries of the global North and South. Part II looks at why Al-Jazeera is the appropriate lens by which to explore this question. Part III examines how Al-Jazeera broadcasts a new narrative of the global South. Part IV and V map the rise of Al-Jazeera in the Middle East and the rest of the world respectively. Finally Part VI examines how power has reconfigured itself in the wake of globalization, specifically how that development pertains to Al-Jazeera.
I. Globalization and Media
Global flows of news information became the subject of intense debate in the 1970s, when countries belonging to the ‘global South’ sought to bring about a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO) in opposition to the ‘global North’ who desired a free flow of information.1 Thus, in addition to the East-West rivalry, by 1990s another division, the so-called North-South divide, emerged.2 ‘Developed’ nations of the world, both in the East and West, constituted the ‘North,’ while the rest of the globe fell under the domain of the ‘South.’3 The global North-South divide relates to the wide discrepancy between the world images and perceptions of those impoverished in the South and those privileged in the North.4 Although I concede that the North-South divide is a crude distinction, it still has merit as tool for analysis.5
UNESCO established the MacBride Commission to study the state of global communication IN. 6 The Commission’s report denounced the unidirectional and inequitable flow of information between countries of the global North and global South. It showed that there was virtually no journalism produced by people of the developing nations for the developed nations, much less for themselves.7 Western global news services, which dominated international communications with their disproportionate amount of power, wealth and equipment, were perceived as the culprits. And although the report has been criticized for its overt partisan tendencies that sympathized with the South, the core premise behind the MacBride report remains intact. Namely, Western powers hegemonize the global information space.8 Today six of the largest media conglomerates are based in the global North and among those most are concentrated in the United States.9 Scholarship has also implicitly sided with the findings published by the Commission. Media representation has become increasingly perceived as dominated by the disproportionately richer, English-speaking countries of the global North—a belief reminiscent of the MacBride Report.
Al-Jazeera Represents Media from the Global South
Despite disparities in Middle East living standards, the region as a whole will be considered as part of the global South—as opposed to the North—since it is not qualitatively different from most of the less-developed countries (LDCs)” according to Alan Richards, author of A Political Economy of the Middle East ”10 Thus, the rising popularity of Al-Jazeera both in the global North and South represents a significant shift in the media landscape since the 1970s. Before I describe Al-Jazeera’s burgeoning global influence, I will discuss why the station is treated as a darling of the global South despite its location in affluent Qatar.
Al-Jazeera is Pan-Arabic Not Qatari
Al-Jazeera was conceived by then president of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa. He envisioned an independent and nonpartisan satellite TV network free from government control, scrutiny and manipulation. In order to launch such a network, he pledged $140 million to Al-Jazeera.11 Though the affluent nation of Qatar does not have much in common with the nations of the global South, Al-Jazeera’s own symbolic role as the media for the global South is not diminished by this fact. This is because Arab audiences do not consider Al-Jazeera Qatari but pan-Arab12—a perception carefully nurtured by the station. One study reported that 73.3 percentof Al-Jazeera’s coverage is pan-Arab with virtually none of its coverage focused on Qatar.13
Al-Jazeera’s diverse staff further projects an identity that is an amalgam of Arab nations and not solely Qatari. One online survey (2004), found that three quarters of its audience lived in the Arab World and an overwhelming majority of its viewers were Muslim.14 Al-Jazeera, however, is not alone in its efforts to establish itself as a pan-Arabic entity. Likewise, Qatar has also labored to disassociate itself from Al-Jazeera. The start-up fund contributed by the emir is treated as a loan, while Al-Jazeera’s logo is devoid of any mention of Qatar.15 By focusing on issues that resonate across many Arab audiences, Al-Jazeera has distinguished itself from networks in the North to become the media of the global South.
II. Al-Jazeera Broadcasts the Narrative of the Global South
The news and talk shows featured on Al-Jazeera have shed light on a lesser-known narrative
of the world— specifically that of the global South. Al-Jazeera provides a perspective that is as well-informed though qualitatively different from the media networks based in the global North. The emergence of this subaltern narrative highlights the progress that has been made in media representation by the global South since the time the MacBride Report was published. Media accounts from news stations aligned with the North or South, differ. Divergence in perception is often attributed to causes like anti-Americanism—but this is an oversimplification. Austin (2011) posits that the asymmetry in opinion between those watching Al-Jazeera and those watching CNN could be explained largely by the fact that they are not watching the same imagery.16 Media images cue audiences to apportion their sympathy and blame; so by this logic, different realities featured on the television screen will mold public opinion differently.17
In July 2002 an America dropped a based bomb on an Afghan wedding ceremony, killing scores of people.18 While this story gripped many in the Arabic world, it went unnoticed by viewers who watched news stations like CNN operating from global North. Philip Kenicott in a 2003 article in the Washington Post attributed this reluctance on the part of Western media firms to broadcast sensitive material like the bombing episode to a combination of taste, ethics, professional standards and responsibility. Reporters and editors desire to air material that appeals most to their target audience. This of course is true of both CNN and Al-Jazeera. Hafez describes Al-Jazeera as having a perception typical of Arab political culture, especially in cases of regional or international conflict. He criticizes that they do not put enough effort into including a diversity of opinions from around the world.19 Yet, it is this very partiality on the part of Al-Jazeera that constitutes the network as a medium that both represents and serves the global South; the same is also true for CNN and the global North.
The credibility of Al-Jazeera finally lends visibility to the population of the global South whose sufferings until now remained largely unknown to those of the global North. As Khanfar said, “It gave a voice to the Arab street: intellectuals and marginalized political opposition were heard, in many cases, for the first time.”20Al-Jazeera managed to successfully detect and highlight the links that connect Arabs worldwide, though its coverage of the Middle East. In other words, “It speaks to and for it.”21 It is helping to form a new Arab public opinion from the bottom up as opposed to the top down, and changing the way Arabs views themselves and their governments.22 Globalization has thus fostered connections among Arabs and Muslims themselves while constructing a bridge between the North-South divide. Those from the global North are able to directly witness the events of the Middle East from another perspective that is distinct from CNN but in many ways its equal.
III. The Rise of Al-Jazeera Among the Arab Countries
State Media before Al-Jazeera
During the 1960s, the UN, through UNESCO, endeavored to encourage the development of national news agencies among the newly independent states of the post World War II era.23 Typically, these post-colonial states have been authoritarian governments who used media to preserve the power of the current regime by tightly monitoring the media. Nationalized news agencies allowed the government to control the ‘national’ image projected on global markets, suppress dissident elements within the state, and secure at the very least, the outward allegiance, of journalists and editors who endorsed regime legitimacy and state-based national identities.24 Moreover, these nations were convinced that they the very act of creating such an institution would enhance the credibility of a nascent nation which is how it gradually became a criterion for nationhood.25
State-affiliated broadcasting services continued to be substantial in the 1990s and this was particularly true for Arab states where broadcasting monopolies and strict government censorship still remained the norm.26 Television coverage in these states centered on strictly censored local news, limited foreign coverage, Arab soap operas, religious programming and culturally conservative entertainment. Prior to Al-Jazeera, news reporting was often determined by directives from the government. During the revolt that seized Egypt in 2011, government-controlled television broadcasted an old video of an empty Tahrir instead of the images of millions protesting there.27
Advent of Satellite Technology in the Middle East
In light of these controls on both ownership and content, satellite television posed a formidable challenge to state media. Communication satellites in the 1960s-70s made possible instantaneous, inexpensive global interactive communication which lowered the barriers of entry so that non-state actors could engage in international communication.28 A marketplace of ideas finally seemed like a feasible reality for those living under authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. Unlike regular television signals, satellite signals are more challenging to disrupt because transmissions come from space. As a result, governments would now find it virtually impossible to ban satellite television over a large area for any practical duration; and at best could only hope to have partial and brief success.29
Beginning in the mid-1980s, communication conglomerates from Western countries expanded their influence to the developing or less-developed countries in Europe, Latin America, and Asia, which included the Arab region.30 When the Arab satellite system (Arabsat) was introduced by the mid-1980s, its potential was underused, with satellite television viewership limited to a few, wealthy individuals in the Middle East. However, this changed with the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the first Gulf War when governments noted the pivotal role played by the American news channel, Cable News Network (CNN), and reconsidered the strategic possibilities of satellite television.31
Influence of CNN
CNN’s live international broadcasts from Baghdad during the 1990 Gulf Crisis marked a turning point in establishing the genre of 24-hour satellite television news.32 The station was unprecedented for its live breaking news stories and its use of unedited footage. Such elements gave CNN the impression of spontaneity and immediacy, which the public, including those from the Middle East, found both unusual and exciting. As it became apparent that Arab viewers preferred the uncensored news of international satellite stations to the state television stations, Arab broadcasters decided to produce their own Arabic version of CNN. While CNN rejected the idea of tailoring a Middle East news service due to anticipated political difficulties, existing Arab satellite channels did not hesitate to incorporate foreign broadcasting practices of the 24-hour news channel.
Saudi Arabia aspired to create an Arabic version with their MBC. However, censorship constraints hampered Middle Eastern journalists from conforming to the standards elevated by CNN. Despite the widely touted impact of CNN, only cosmetic changes resulted: ERTU, an Egyptian state television continued to use slow rhythm, long introductions, and unneeded shots.33 Nevertheless, there was now a recognition that CNN’s live reports had to somehow be emulated if local stations wanted to survive.34
A disagreement between Saudi Arabia and the BBC News Services led to the termination of the Arabic TV division of the BBC News Service in April 1996 mere months after the contract was signed. The Saudi’s maneuver thereby dismantled the TV service that was anticipated to have become the largest and most influential media force in the Arab world.35 But a new contender emerged to quickly fill that void. Al-Jazeera was finally able to materialize after it recruited a majority of the BBC-trained Arab journalists who brought with them the editorial spirit, freedom, and style of their former workplace.36 When it first started, Al-Jazeera was broadcasted for only six hours each day but as its popularity increased, it transitioned into a 24-hour network.37
Although Al-Jazeera was undoubtedly influenced by BBC, there are important distinctions to be made between the BBC project and Al-Jazeera. In terms of the size of the audience, BBC had a very limited one because the channel was not free, whereas Al-Jazeera is free in most places in the Arabic world. All that is needed to watch Al-Jazeera is a satellite dish which at a cost of $100 has become a ubiquitous item in the region. Approximately 70 percent of Arabs who own a satellite dish now rely on Al-Jazeera for news, political information, and documentaries.38 Next, BBC was broadcasted for only eight hours a day, compared to the twenty four hours currently broadcasted by Al-Jazeera. And finally, Al-Jazeera is broadcasted from an Arab capital in an Arab country and operated by Arabs themselves while BBC is not.39
Al-Jazeera identified a market demand for reliable and independent journalism in the Middle East and was able to capitalize off of it by providing the Middle East with fact-based, reliable reporting. Ultimately, it was not the international community represented by UN or UNESCO, which fostered the free flow of communication.40 Unforeseen by the MacBride Commission, it was actually market forces steered by giant transnational media corporations, which rectified the qualitative imbalance in communication. The demand for live, uncensored news coverage—stimulated by CNN—enabled Al-Jazeera to supply that commodity to developing countries of the global South.
Al-Jazeera’s Transforms the Global South
Without the same institutionalized censorship mechanisms, Al-Jazeera has been able to cover subjects diligently avoided by the rest of the Arab media.41 Consistent with its slogan and motto, the view and the other point of view, Al-Jazeera has distinguished itself from the region by presenting dissenting opinions that deviate from traditional Arabic views.42 Whereas other news stations throughout the Arab region have developed a definitive stance toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Al-Jazeera broadcasts full interviews with Israeli officials, which is an absolute taboo by most Arab standards. And was the first Arab news station to interview top Israeli leaders like Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.43
Moreover, the spectacular success of Al-Jazeera has convinced rival networks in the region to voluntarily adopt greater editorial freedom. One such rival, Al-Ikhbariya of Saudi Arabia, imitated Al-Jazeera by reporting on more sensitive issues like the exclusion of women from voting in municipal elections. Before the rise of Al-Jazeera, editorial freedom to this extent would not have been tolerated in the kingdom.44 Al-Jazeera is revolutionary because it has challenged traditional social norms by forcing topics once considered forbidden by Arab standards—like homosexuality and women’s civil right—into the mainstream.45 While the nature of programming on Al-Jazeera is not particularly radical, the fact that these issues are being broadcasted in pubic is a departure from regional norms. By introducing open discussion to a region with little tradition of free press, this independent network has emerged at the forefront of a revolution in the global South, one whose effects have barely begun to be appreciated.
While Al-Jazeera is clearly designed with an Arab audience in mind, it is equally evident that the network has absorbed Western influences as reflected in its commitment to Western principles of free speech and journalistic professionalism, which can be considered anomalies in Arab countries. It has adopted the aesthetic of American news and talk show formats.46 Similar to CNN, events covered on Al-Jazeera are broadcasted live from the scene, not recorded and packaged, and talk shows are neither edited nor censored. By virtue of the progressive Qatari emir and the unusual background of its founding staff, Al-Jazeera is distinct from any Arabic language television programming previously seen.47 The managers of Al-Jazeera have imitated Western media by having talk show hosts who are younger and bolder and dismissing the stiff pedants who formerly dominated traditional Arab news programs.48 Live talk shows like The Opposite Direction have given airtime to opposition figures to the dismay of Arabic governments.49 The staff, trained in Western journalistic traditions, observes Western media ethic privileging veracity.50 It seeks to provide in-depth investigative analysis of the day’s events as they unfold, rather than focusing on the daily routines of the government.
Al-Jazeera’s innovation was not that that it was the first transnational Arab television station—because it was not. Before Al-Jazeera there was BBC Arabic and other state television which did transverse national boundaries. But Al-Jazeera is remarkable in that it is has revolutionized the media landscape of the Middle East by provoking open discussion with the use of unfettered journalism. For the first time, those in the global South, and in particular those in the Middle East, are able to view Arab life, culture and politics for what it truly is and not how the autocratic regimes envision it to be, thereby challenging legitimacy of the Arab status quo. It is not only lending visibility of the global South to those in the global North but also making those within the global South known amongst one another.
IV. Al-Jazeera Spreads Its Influence Globally
Al-Jazeera Partners with the Global North
The MacBride Commission was convinced that in practice communication could never be a continual exchange between equals; claiming that “The flow is vertical instead of horizontal and is mostly in one direction”.51 In this context, a vertical orientation assumes that communications in the global South is dominated by its Northern counterparts. But recent collaborations between Al-Jazeera and many other media conglomerates from the North suggest the opposite: Instead, communications between the North and South would best be described as lateral in orientation, where the combination of exclusive scoops and professionalism garnered for this media of the South credibility that spans the world.
Al-Jazeera became known to those in the North when it broadcasted live, a pre-recorded video message of Osama bin Laden making his first verified statement after the September 11 attacks.52 Once the video was broadcasted, most of the major news networks –like NBC, CBS and Fox– cut to Al-Jazeera in time for the speech instead of using their normal footage.53 But it was not until the war in Afghanistan that Al-Jazeera received worldwide recognition as a respected first-rate news network. After having maintained a presence in Afghanistan for nearly two years, the Arabic satellite service gained unique access to its factions and warlords.54 So that when US and Britain began their bombing operations against Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces on October 2001, Al-Jazeera’s correspondents were there to transmit live scenes to their viewers. Many international news organizations have since praised the Arabic news network and consider it a leading source of breaking news in the world. “You may not agree with it [Al-Jazeera], but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news that is not providing information to us, let alone foreigners,” said Secretary of State Hilary Clinton of Al-Jazeera before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.55Al-Jazeera is able to provide more depth with its nuanced perspective because the Middle East region is their specific expertise. Journalists understand the social, political, and historical fabric of the societies they cover because they speak the language; they know the terrain said Wahdah Khanfar, the director general of the network in an article posted on the Al-Jazeera site.56 Interviews with Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, conducted by both CNN and Al-Jazeera respectively, highlight the differences in expertise between the North and South on Middle Eastern affairs. A veteran media researcher observed how when Larry King interviewed Aziz, some Arab viewers familiar with Western media interview protocol felt Aziz had been treated too kindly. By contrast, Sami Haddad–the Larry King equivalent in the Arabic world–who possessed extensive knowledge of Arab politics was able to conduct a more rigorous interview.57
Well before countries like Egypt even mattered to international news networks in the North, journalists from Al-Jazeera have been capturing their stories to inform their global audience of events unfolding at home or half a world away. As a result, the protests that ruptured in Egypt were of no surprise to these journalists who for years had reported on the economic hardship and political stagnation of these populations.
With this reputation for winning exclusives and scoops from the region, Al-Jazeera has been courted by many networks from the global North. Cooperative agreements between Al-Jazeera and news agencies like CNN and BBC, depict a different reality than the one described by the MacBride Commission. Contrary to the report which suggested a vertical relationship between the media of the North and South, Al-Jazeera is able to share its information and resources with these agencies of the North as equal partners. This egalitarian dynamic between the two is suggested by Adrian Van-Klaveran, the head of news-gathering at BBC when he said, “By working alongside them in our news-gathering activities, we will be able to provide an even more comprehensive service to the BBC’s audiences both in the UK and around the world.”58 Notice here how he specifically mentions the partnership of the two as “working alongside” one another. This signals the displacement of the orientation between the North and South with a horizontal relationship where the likes of BBC and Al-Jazeera are considered equals. Unlike the vertical orientation which assumes BBC dictates the news that is directed to the audience found in the Middle East, Al-Jazeera is independent from this kind of influence from BBC or any other media from the North. Instead, in the lateral orientation between Al-Jazeera and BBC, Al-Jazeera shares its images and video material as part of its contract and is quoted as the source.
Not until the rise of Al-Jazeera, was there a news station of the South that could boast of an audience global in reach, with the credibility that spanned the globe, to squarely challenge the conclusions of the MacBride Report, whose core precept held that communications between the North and South was vertical. Although this may have been true in the 1970-80s, globalization has brought the concerns of the global South to the attention of those to the world. Al-Jazeera’s professional reliable news stories have garnered for this media of the global South, unanimous respect from around the world. The numerous partnerships forged between Al-Jazeera and various other media conglomerates from the North signal a shift from the vertical orientation of the past to the horizontal one of the present.
V. Power Re-conceptualized
Empowerment of Non-State Actors
The diffusion of influence from the less powerful loci of power in the global South to the global North suggests that the nature of power must have itself changed. Historically, nation states enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the marketplace of information because power was firmly concentrated in their grasp. But dramatic reductions in the costs of communications and technology have vastly increased the number and variety of actors participating in the information space, making it difficult for any one entity, including states, to monopolize the mass media and communications networks. The rise of these formidable actors has rewritten the rules that actors must now follow: Nations states, once the unquestioned rule-makers of the system, have lost their monopoly and must compete with non-state actors like Al-Jazeera to preserve their influence. Unlike before, technological supremacy no longer ensures a veritable dominance of information space because it is now derived from other non-purchasable sources.
Paradoxically, while globalization has undoubtedly lowered the costs of communications and transport, it has simultaneously raised the costs of nation states to administer their territory with the same degree of autocratic firmness that had been possible before. By the 1980s, information and communications technology were evolving faster than the ability of governments to control them as transmission of information became infinitely faster. Technology like satellite television allowed information to transverse borders and reach audiences in other states.59 It became increasingly difficult for nation states to block unwanted information broadcasted by these new competitors because the political and economic costs of asserting dominance in this information space had risen.
Nevertheless, a state that seeks to protect its information space from unwanted incursions can do so unilaterally without negotiation or consent, using technology, internal force, or power of law. Unilateral action is often an act of defensiveness, meant to protect territorial integrity, national security and identity.60 But even unilateral action has its limits since the media can always discover a way to bypass porous national boundaries. Despite the fact that Arab countries occasionally deny visa requests to journalists, Al-Jazeera nevertheless often managed to broadcast news with images—even those that directly counter the state— from within all countries in the region.61When the news network was banned in Tunisia during the uprising in 2011, social media tools like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube enabled Al-Jazeera to overcome this obstruction when locals themselves sent images of the uprising to the news station who then broadcasted to a global audience.62As Jim Ballout, the manager of media relations for Al-Jazeera and subsequently Al Arabiya said,” The days are long gone when you can punish a news organization by keeping it out of a certain field of action or area.”63
Faced with this impossibility of banning Al-Jazeera, other countries have resorted to more extreme measures to impede Al-Jazeera’s signals. In January 1999, the Algerian government shut down power to several major cities, including the capital, Algeris, so as to prevent Algerians from viewing one particular episode of The Opposite Direction. That night, an exiled journalist was expected to debate a representative of the government regime on the topic of the human right atrocities committed by government security forces during the country’s prolonged civil war.64 Globalization entails a Faustian bargain for states: Those that prefer to assert absolute control over their territory must abnegate all the potential technological advances and efficiencies that accompany globalization. And conversely, those that desire these benefits must submit themselves to limited autonomy as they coexist with empowered non-state actors. Either option entails a risk calculus where governments seek to maximize the benefit that is generated from such a negotiation while minimizing the burdens. The Algerian government perceived that the loss of credibility and legitimacy could best be minimized if dissenting viewpoints – such as the one to be aired on Al-Jazeera-were stifled. But shutting off Al-Jazeera cannot be accomplished without great economic and political cost on the part of the government.
Thus the preferred recourse for a majority of these nation-states has been to pursue the more cost-effective consensual agreements as opposed to unilateral action. Reluctant to repudiate the rewards that come with the efficient machinery of globalization, many of these nation states have been willing to shed traditional conceptions of sovereign autonomy by submitting to constraints upon their autonomy over territory and resources. As rational actors, who seek to maximize their benefits, they recognize that more could be potentially gained in terms of material resources, expertise and recognition though voluntary cooperation.65
After Al-Jazeera broadcasted tapes of Osama bin Laden, the US was confronted with a few options. On the one hand, it could retaliate against Al-Jazeera by outright banning the network for broadcasting unflattering material critical of the nation-state. A problem with this is that the economic and political costs of obstructing non-state actors was high since globalization lowered the costs of communication for all. Under a cost-benefit paradigm, the exorbitant costs would not outweigh the comparatively smaller benefits to be derived from unilateral action. Banning Al-Jazeera would have been especially detrimental to the US since much of its national identity is based on its tradition of free speech. The other option was to simply cooperate—which is what the US did. In spite of the administration’s own resentment towards the network, US public officials began appearing on Al-Jazeera to argue their case.66 The Bush administration realized it could do more to bolster its legitimacy as well as improve its expertise on the region if it were to tolerate mild encroachments upon its territorial sovereignty. Although globalization may have diminished the traditional conception of sovereignty based on territoriality, the act of negotiation may augment other dimensions of power at less of a cost. Nation-states have begun to recognize the multifaceted nature of sovereignty. States that benefit most from globalization are those who submit willingly to limitations upon their territorial authority, by negotiating and coexisting with non state actors. Unless nation-states revert to a period prior to globalization, cooperation and negotiation are here to stay.
The Importance of Credibility
The struggle for information dominance has focused less on control over the technical ability to transmit information, but more on the cultivation and erosion of credibility. If controlling the information space now involves attracting viewers as opposed to censoring the competition, then power is no longer determined primarily by technological supremacy and wealth. For example, Al-Jazeera remains the most widely watched network in the Arabic region. Even though Al-Jazeera has been unable to post a profit, its credibility has ensured that its influence diffuses throughout the region. The key question to wielding influence then becomes not how much wealth one has accumulated, but who has the most credibility? Credibility derives from a reputation for providing correct information even when it may reflect poorly on the information providers’ own country.67Al-Jazeera’s more critical, professional, and uncensored news has attracted more followers than many state-owned media companies like the Saudi-backed MBC, whose growing audience was usurped by Al-Jazeera in 1996.68 Globalization has indiscriminately reduced the costs of communication to the extent that non-state actors can realistically compete with nation-states for influence in the information space form of power. No longer is global communication a power solely reserved for the nation-state.
The abundance of information made available by the numerous competing forms of media conglomerates and state-media, has made attention a scarce resource. Credibility as a result is a valuable resource and asymmetrical credibility: a key source of power. According to Keohane, “the low cost of transmitting data means that the ability to transmit is much less important as a power resource than it used to be, but the ability to filter information is more so.”69 Soft power will likely be less dependent on material resources than in the past because power has shifted from becoming dependent on capabilities that could be bought to qualities that cannot. Regardless of to whom the allegiance of individuals goes to, the ultimate beneficiary of this new competitive arrangement is the individual. Because influence is now partly determined by credibility, it is in the interest of both states as well as non-state actors to present information that is both reliable and relevant. Equipped with this information, individuals will now be in a position to make better informed decisions.
The MacBride Commission reported that a qualitative imbalance existed in media representation between countries of the global North and global South with content flowing in a unidirectional, North-South direction. Such conclusions, however, can be tempered in light of the rise of Al-Jazeera, an Arab television station which has shed light on an alternative, lesser known narrative of the world. It is a media that broadcasts the plight of those suffering in the Middle East and is unafraid to disagree and even criticize governments of the global North. The coexistence of these two perspective –one broadcasted by Al-Jazeera and the other by Northern networks like CNN– has resulted in global media representation that is more balanced.
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10 Ibid, P.6
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15 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co, 2001.
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18 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005
19 Hafez, Kai. The Myth of Media Globalization. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
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22 Murphy, Emma C. “Third World Quarterly.” Agency and Space: the political impact of information technologies in the Gulf Arab states. 2006. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e68fbbaf-0de4-46ad-b58b-c4b0c8804d0apercent40sessionmgr104&vid=2&hid=9 (accessed May 15, 2011)
23 Boyd-Barrett, Oliver (ed) and Rantanen, Terhi (ed.). The Globalization of News. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1998
24 Murphy, Emma C. “Third World Quarterly.”Agency and Space: the political impact of information technologies in the Gulf Arab states. 2006. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e68fbbaf-0de4-46ad-b58b-c4b0c8804d0apercent40sessionmgr104&vid=2&hid=9 (accessed May 15, 2011).
25 Boyd-Barrett, Oliver (ed) and Rantanen, Terhi (ed.). The Globalization of News. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1998.
26 Jin, Dal Yong. “Television and News Media.” Transformation of the World Television System under NeoliberalGlobalization. 1983-2001.August 2007. http://tvn.sagepub.com/content/8/3/179.full.pdf+html (accessed May 15, 2001)
27 Walker, Christopher and Orttung, Robert. Lies and Videotape. April 22, 2011.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/23/opinion/23walker.html?scp=13&sq=alpercent20jazeera&st=cse (accessed May 10, 2011)
28 Herman, Edward S. and McChesney, Robert W. The Global Media: The New Missionaries of Corporate Capitalism. London: Cassell, 1997.
29 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
30 Jin, D. Y. (2007, August).Television and News Media. Retrieved May 15, 2001, from Transformation of the World Television System under Neoliberal Globalization, 1983-2001:http://tvn.sagepub.com/content/8/3/179.full.pdf+html.
31 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005
32 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B.Tauris & Co, 2001.
35 El Nawawy, Mohammed and Iskandar, Adel. AL-JAZEERA: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East. Cambridge: Westview Press, 2002.
37 Al-Nsairat, Amani Kh. “Al-Jazeera: the Famous channel in the Middle East.” Peace and Conflict monitor. June 6, 2010. http://www.monitor.upeace.org/archive.cfm?id_article=726 (accessed February 11, 2011)
38 El Nawawy, Mohammed and Iskandar, Adel. AL-JAZEERA: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East. Cambridge: Westview Press, 2002.
39 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
40 Commission, MacBride. Many Voices, One World. Paris: UNESCO, 1980.
41 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co, 2001.
42 El Nawawy, Mohammed and Iskandar, Adel. AL-JAZEERA: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East. Cambridge: Westview Press, 2002.
44 Murphy, Emma C. “Third World Quarterly.” Agency and Space: the political impact of information technologies in the Gulf Arab states. 2006. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e68fbbaf-0de4-46ad-b58b-c4b0c8804d0apercent40sessionmgr104&vid=2&hid=9 (accessed May 15, 2011).
45 Murphy, Emma C. “Third World Quarterly.” Agency and Space: the political impact of information technologies in the Gulf Arab states. 2006. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e68fbbaf-0de4-46ad-b58b-c4b0c8804d0apercent40sessionmgr104&vid=2&hid=9 (accessed May 15, 2011).
46 Hafez, Kai. The Myth of Media Globalization. Cambridge: Polity, 2007
47 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co, 2001.
48 El Nawawy, Mohammed and Iskandar, Adel. AL-JAZEERA: How the Free Arab News Network Scooped the World and Changed the Middle East. Cambridge: Westview Press, 2002.
49 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B.Tauris & Co, 2001.
50 Hafez, Kai. The Myth of Media Globalization. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
51 Commission, MacBride. Many Voices, One World. Paris: UNESCO, 1980.
52 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
55 Bauder, David. Huffpost Media. March 5, 2011. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/05/hillary-clintons-al-Jazeera-us-media_n_831788.html (accessed May 31, 2011).
56 Khanfar, Wadah. Not Coming to America. February 5, 2011. http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/05/not-coming-to-america.html (accessed February 11, 2011).
57 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B.Tauris & Co, 2001.
58 “BBC in news deal with Arabic TV.” BBC News. February 17, 2003. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/2668007.stm (accessed May 13, 2011).
59 Murphy, Emma C. “Third World Quarterly.”Agency and Space: the political impact of information technologies in the Gulf Arab states. 2006. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=e68fbbaf-0de4-46ad-b58b-c4b0c8804d0apercent40sessionmgr104&vid=2&hid=9 (accessed May 15, 2011).
60 Price, Monroe E.Media and Sovereignty: The Global Information Revolution and Its Challenge to State Power. London: The MIT Press, 2002.
61 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
62 Khanfar, Wahdah. “Al Jazeera English Should Be Available on American Television.” Huffpost Media.
January 31, 2011. http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/02/201121121041735816.html (accessed May 22, 2011).
63 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
64 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
65 Hochstetler, Kathryn, Ann M. Clark, and Elisabeth and Friedman. “Sovereignty in the Balance: Claims and Bargains at the UN Conferences on the Environment, Human Rights, and Women.” International Studies Quarterly, 2000: 599-614.
66 Miles, Hugh. Al-Jazeera: The Inside Story of the Arab News Channel That is Challenging the West.
New York: Grove Press, 2005.
67 Sakr, Naomi. Satellite Realms: Transnational Television, Globalization & the Middle East. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co, 2001.
68 Murphy, Emma C. “Third World Quarterly.”Agency and Space: the political impact of information technologies in the Gulf Arab states. 2006. http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer sid=e68fbbaf-0de4-46ad-b58b-c4b0c8804d0apercent40sessionmgr104&vid=2&hid=9 (accessed May 15, 2011).
69 Ibid, p223
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