November 28, 2012

Arab-American Media

Audio

Arab-American radio is in a more fragile state than print.

Most Arab-American radio is what is termed "brokered programming," according to radio talk show host, columnist and comedian Ray Hanania. That means the show’s producer pays the radio station directly for airtime, with no advertising support to help cover the cost.  According to Hanania, finding companies interested in advertising on an Arab radio show is extremely difficult. As of October 2012, there were 10 programs focused mainly on Arab-American or Middle East issues. (That is down by two from 12 in 2008, Hanania said).[1]

Hanania co-hosts Radio Baladi on WNZK AM with journalist Laila AlHusinni, broadcast for one hour every Friday morning. The show is "barely breaking even" according to Hanania, and survives largely because the Chicago-based show is also broadcast in Detroit, which has a high concentration of Arab Americans and Arabs.[2]

Hanania also hosted another show, The Ray Hanania Show, or Radio Chicagoland, on WSBC AM.[3] However, on Sept. 23, 2012, Radio Chicagoland went off air due to lack of advertising revenue. Hanania said "the show mixed Middle East and American Arab and Muslim issues with mainstream issues, in the hopes of attracting non-Arab or non-Muslim advertisers, but it was not very successful. There are still many people who view American Arabs and American Muslims with a very negative perception."[4]  

One program expanded its broadcast, and is now the most widely available Arab-American radio show on air. The weekday program Good Morning Michigan, hosted by AlHusinni, is broadcast in Detroit, Chicago, Toledo, New York, Canada – and starting in November 2012, the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore markets. The show consists of commentary in English and Arabic on various topics of interest.[5] The program’s growth was possible because members of the Arab-American business community sponsored the expansion.[6]

Another Arab American-focused radio show is Radio Tahrir on WBAI FM in New York. The show is produced by executive producer Barbara Nimri Aziz and hosts Sarah Malaika and Saadia Aslam. The weekly one-hour show aims to provide "arts/public affairs programming based on the principle that ‘everything is political’" and features intellectuals, community leaders, educators, and artists from the Arab-American community.[7]

One outlet combines radio and television in order to reach audiences. Started in 1986, the Michigan-based entertainment and news network MEA TV & Radio (Middle Eastern American TV & Radio) broadcasts about 80% of its radio programming in Arabic and the remaining 20% in English. Currently the network’s radio station reaches audiences in Southeast Michigan, Northeast Ohio, and Western Ontario, with an estimated 600,000 listeners per broadcast. However, airtime is limited to a two-hour block from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. [8]

One solution for radio may be to increase online content. In addition to its on-air broadcast, MEA TV & Radio also has an online radio station. Ray Hanania’s radio shows are all available online and he also produces separate podcasts of interviews he conducts on Point to Point. Hanania’s main website, The Media Oasis, is an all-encompassing source for his broadcast content, syndicated columns, blogs, books, social media sites, and resources for Arab American journalists.[9] In a YouTube video called "Hanania Overview of His Internet Media," he touches on his support of digital content, saying that podcasting is a good way to counter the mainstream media discourse.[10]

Antoine Faisal of the Aramica newspaper and website also produces a radio show, Radio Aramica. Radio Aramica broadcasts free of charge online and is also accessible on smartphones as well as landlines or mobile phones without internet access. This last option is made available by dialing into a phone number to listen to the radio programming. Faisal chose this route, he said, due to the high cost of broadcasting on traditional radio.[11] The website Arab America also has its own audio content, Arab Detroit Radio, which is only available online. Starting with a few hundred listeners, there are now around 22,000 per month.[12]


Footnotes:

[1] Hanania, Ray. E-mail to PEJ. July 19, 2012.

[2] Hanania, Ray. E-mail to PEJ. Sept. 10, 2012.

[3] Radio Baladi website.

[4] Hanania, Ray. E-mail to PEJ. Sept. 10, 2012.

[5] US Chaam Media website.

[6] "U.S. Arab Radio, ‘Good Morning Michigan,’ Announces Expansion to Washington D.C." Arab America. Nov. 6, 2012.

[7] Radio Tahrir website.

[8] Middle Eastern American TV & Radio website. "Distribution."

[9] The Media Oasis website.

[10] Hanania, Ray. "Hanania Overview of His Internet Media." Posted May 13, 2012.

[11] Faisal, Antoine. Interview with PEJ. Sept. 1, 2012.

[12] David, Warren. Interview with PEJ, Aug. 31, 2012.