November 28, 2012

Arab-American Media

Television

Arab-American television news programming is almost nonexistent, and the channels that do exist are largely overshadowed by satellite news from the Middle East and North Africa. The first attempt at an Arab-American television and radio network was Arab Network of America (ANA), created in the early 1990s. Available in Washington, D.C., Detroit, New York City and Chicago, ANA produced about seven to 10 hours of local cable programming per day.[1] 

With the rise of Arab satellite channels such as Al Jazeera in the late 1990s and the early 2000s, opportunities for the growth of specifically Arab-American television news diminished, according to some observers.[2] The cost of producing programming that can compete with major Arab news channels boasting a steady stream of funding is unrealistically high for smaller outlets, said Siblani of The Arab American News.[3]

Arab-American channels based in the United States are typically a mix of news, entertainment, lifestyle, cultural programming, such as MEA TV & Radio’s television channel and New York-based TAC Arabic TV. Straight news reporting tends to make up a relatively small portion of the content, with a greater emphasis placed on talk-show format programs that provide a forum for community dialogue and debate.[4]

These channels carry their own original programs, but also fill some airtime with shows from outlets in Arab countries. While the amount of Arabic versus English content varies across outlets, the majority tends to be in Arabic. TAC TV includes English subtitles for the movies and soap operas it airs and MEA TV has a few talk shows that are in English.[5]

The Arab-American television industry has trouble reaching an audience because it is limited, both financially and because channels often cannot get picked up by cable providers. MEA TV & Radio’s television channel is available on cable, but only in Michigan and the Washington, D.C. area; TAC TV is limited to the New York/New Jersey region. Both channels could potentially reach a nationwide audience via satellite and, like much of today’s television programming in general, viewers can watch MEA TV online.[6] But this presents yet another challenge for Arab-American television outlets. As audiences turn online and to satellite technology, they are presented with an array of alternative news sources from abroad.


Footnotes

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

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

[3] Siblani, Osama. Interview with PEJ. Aug. 24, 2012

[4] MEA TV & Radio website and Allied Media Corp. website: TAC TV profile.

[5] MEA TV & Radio website and Allied Media Corp. website: TAC TV profile.

[6] MEA TV & Radio website and Allied Media Corp. website: TAC TV profile.