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Posted On: 25 April 2013 10:56 am
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:12 pm

Arab Spring a bane to Al Jazeera’s popularity

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Lauded widely for its bold and unbiased coverage of revolutions in the Arab world, the popularity of Al Jazeera Arabic channel is on the wane in Arab Spring countries. A survey conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) suggests that the viewers’ base of the Doha-based network is just four percent in neighbouring Bahrain, nine percent in Tunisia, from where the Arab Spring began, and 20 percent in Egypt. Google, and not any mainstream media organisation, was the most popular news medium in Bahrain with a market share of 26 percent. Al Jazeera ranked below even the BBC and Twitter, and ended the last with a four percent share. In Egypt, Al Hayat and Al Kanat Al Oula had a 23 percent share each, with CBC ranking third with a 21 percent market share. Al Jazeera trailed at the fourth slot with a 20 percent market share. In Tunisia, Facebook was the most popular news medium with an incredible 52 percent market share, with Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya ranking last with a nine percent market share each. As for the web, although users in Qatar support the freedom to express opinions online, they also believe the Internet should be more tightly regulated, reveals a recent survey conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar. The survey on ‘Media Use in the Middle East’ was a comprehensive study covering eight countries including Qatar, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates. It surveyed 9,693 respondents aged 18 years and above aimed at shedding light on how people in the region use media, and whether they trust their sources of information. Of the 919 respondents from Qatar 60 percent agree to the statement ‘It is okay for people to express their ideas on the Internet even if they are unpopular’, just one percent below the average of the total number of respondents from eight countries. Saudi Arabia is highest at 76 percent. However, majority in Qatar (57 percent), Saudi Arabia (62 percent), Lebanon (64 percent) and Tunisia (52 percent) want tighter regulation of Internet in their countries, survey results show. Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll of Harris Interactive, to which NU-Q collaborated for the survey, said the result was a “paradox because while the majority of those surveyed want online freedom of expression, they at the same time want tighter Internet regulations.” The research shows a large majority of adults in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates believe their news media are credible (74pc, 67pc and 63pc, respectively). In Qatar 53 percent also feel local media is credible. At a function held to announce the results of the survey yesterday, the audience was very appreciative of Northwestern University’s efforts and praised the survey as excellent, carried out with a high degree of professionalism and expertise and by highly qualified staff. “Let’s hope we will see more such surveys in future in our region,” a participant said. Meanwhile, only approximately one in four of those surveyed in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia believe the news media in their countries are credible. “This is a particularly interesting phenomenon in Lebanon, as this is thought to be a country with ‘free press,’” said Everette E Dennis, Dean and CEO of NU-Q. With regard to reliability of sources of information, respondents from Qatar consider television (56 percent) and Internet (52 percent) as more reliable than newspapers (49 percent) and radio (44 percent). An interesting result of the survey is that Qatari nationals look to Interpersonal sources as major source of news and entertainment which for Dennis reaffirms the important role majlis plays in the life of Qataris. Smart phones and laptops are popular in most countries while tablets are less prevalent except Qatar which reported the highest level of tablet usage among eight countries. Internet usage in Qatar is higher in men (94 percent) than women (83 percent) and access to websites in Arabic (92 percent) than English (89 percent). Most of them are aged below 45 years and educated. While many of those who use the Internet are employed (94 percent) than unemployed (78 percent) most of them are at the bottom 50 percent (93 percent) in terms of income compared to the top 50 percent earners (89 percent). Almost everyone in all eight countries uses social networking sites at an average of 3.2 hours a day with Facebook (94 percent) eclipsing Twitter (52 percent), Google Plus (46 percent) and Instagram (14 percent). Usage of these sites is lowest in Qatar. Respondents were far more likely to agree than disagree that the quality of news reporting in the Arab world has improved in the past two years. Among all respondents, 61 percent agreed, 14 percent disagreed. An interactive website produced by NU-Q will be launched soon to make the data available and accessible to both professionals and general news consumers alike. It features dynamic data displays that allow users to make their own comparisons between different countries, as well as between different demographics surveyed within each country, including gender, age, and the juxtaposition of nationals, Arab, Asian and other expatriates. While the questionnaire, designed by NU-Q, places a large emphasis on digital news consumption, it also includes items from the World Internet Project, in which NU-Q is a participating institution. The findings were presented during the second session of the Qatar Media Industries Forum yesterday at Sheraton Doha. The forum is an initiative of NU-Q that brings together senior officials of media enterprises in Qatar. The findings will be shared with the World Internet Project, which regularly compiles data on digital media use in 37 countries. Source : Qatar Chronicle