November 28, 2012

Arab-American Media

Press Release

Contact:  Tom Rosenstiel or Amy Mitchell, PEJ, 202.419.3650

Arab-American Media:
Bringing News to a Diverse Community

Wednesday, November 28 - At a time of major news developments in the Middle East and North Africa, the Arab-American media’s efforts to meet the demands of its audience have been complicated by declining ad revenue, new technology, and growing competition from Arab outlets in the Middle East and North Africa, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

This report examines the state of the Arab-American news media as it seeks to serve a growing and diverse population. In 2011 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there were close to 1.8 million Arab-Americans living within the United States, an approximately 47% increase in population size from 2000. This estimate however, is believed by some to be a significant undercount. Arab-Americans are of varying religious backgrounds and have complex historical, cultural, and political ties to nearly two dozen nations.

Among the findings:

  • Print: Trends across most print outlets point to a shift toward digital and to maintaining community news coverage, even while trying to increase coverage of the Middle East and North Africa. In general, Arab-American newspapers are suffering from a significant drop in advertising revenue triggered in part by the recent economic recession. Most are free if picked up at a newsstand or store, though there is usually a fee attached to having a newspaper home delivered.
  • Radio: Radio serving the Arab-American community is in a more fragile state than print. Most content is "brokered programming," meaning the show’s producer pays a radio station for airtime. And advertising is even harder to come by here. Access to Arab-American broadcast radio is limited geographically. Some radio programming is moving online, which means lower production costs and a potentially wider audience, but it is unclear if this is long-term solution.
  • Television: Arab-American television news programming is almost nonexistent, and the few channels that do exist are largely overshadowed by satellite news from the Middle East and North Africa. Numerous Arab satellite channels and networks can be accessed in the United States online, as well as over satellite because they are "free-to-air" feeds. Al Jazeera English is carried by a handful of cable providers, and continues to push for wider inclusion in the cable market.
  • Arab uprisings: The Arab uprisings provided a unique moment for Arab-American news media. When the mainstream U.S. media’s attention eventually shifted away from the uprisings, Arab-American outlets were presented with an opportunity to fill that void. Social media – which was a story in its own right – offered ways for the Arab-American media to reach its audience, but the user-generated content also posed a threat to smaller outlets by providing an abundance of alternative online information.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism tracks the transformation of journalism in a changing information landscape through its annual State of the News Media report and other special reports. As part of the nonpartisan, non-advocacy Pew Research Center, it does not take positions on policy issues.

Read the complete study.