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Satellite TV channels accused of causing “chaos” in Arab world

ASBU calls for unified Arab standards to monitor broadcast content

Satellite TV channels in the Middle East need to be regulated, said the director general of the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) during a discussion at this year’s Asia Media Summit. The annual conference is taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from May 6 to 8.

Speaking on the event’s opening day, Salaheddine Maaoui, ASBU’s Director General, stated that a fraction of the channels in the Arab world are owned by the government, while the vast majority are privately owned. Many of these channels, he added, are “broadcasting all kind of stuff resulting in chaos and confusion.”

During a session entitled “Proliferation of Satellite Channels: Boon or Bane”, Maaoui said: “Only 15% of these [almost 1,300] channels are owned by the government, the rest belong to private citizens. Anyone who has the money can set the agenda of a channel. There are no checks and balances, the government has little control over these channels.

“Before, you could count [these channels] on your fingers. Not anymore. The flipside of it is that there is no control. There is no legislation to govern them.”

While other parts of the world have regulations in place to monitor illegitimate content, Maaoui said, this lacking in the Middle East is a weakness.

“In the Arab world, we have no regulations. This is our weakness. We should have unified Arab standards to monitor what is aired on satellite television channels. We have regulations in the first world; they have regularised satellite television,” he said.

Noting that the Arab League had attempted to introduce general rules previously, Maaoui said the implementation strategy was inadequate.

“The implementation was left to individual countries. As a result, the [Arab league’s] efforts did not bear fruit. The planning was great but the execution sloppy. Now they are working again to put some regulations in place.”