Home Satellite channels in the Arab sky: numbers down, dispersed ownership up

Satellite channels in the Arab sky: numbers down, dispersed ownership up

 The "Annual Report on Arab satellite broadcasting," is a report issued by the High Committee for Coordination among Arab Satellite Channels (HCCASC), for which the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) acts as technical secretariat. The Report version for 2016 provides updated statistical data on the satellite broadcasting industry in the Arab region, classifies channel categories according to their programming, language of broadcasting, geographic coverage, specialization and public, group or private ownership.

The report also provides a critical reading of new trends and developments of the sector and attempts to understand the phenomenon of satellite channels proliferation and its implications.

In the early nineties of the last century, the number of Arab satellite channels (both public and private) was limited to no more than a handfull of channels The current boom has been brought about mostly thanks to the private sector.

According to the most recent report on Arab satellite broadcasting for the year 2016, the number of satellite channels broadcast or re-broadcast by Arab corporations reached a total of 1122 channels, down from the previous year (1230) by about 100 channels.

Various factors have helped the proliferation of channels, such as the growing role of the private sector, technological developments and digital satellite broadcasting that offered unlimited opportunities, low cost access and wide prospects for development. After having reached a high of about 1320 channels in 2014, the number of satellite channels is now experiencing some retreat.

The number of Arab corporations broadcasting or re- broadcasting satellite channels stands at 650, including 36 publicly owned ones. and 614 owned by the private sector. Compared with last year, the number of private coporations went down dramatically, since it decreased dramatically. By contrast, a few hundred other channels are individually owned by private investors. They all broadcast or re- broadcast 1122 television channels (151 public, 963 private channels and 8 foreign ones broadcasting to the MENA region and using the Arabic language, partially or fully). The rise recorded in the number of public channels is mostly attributed to the return of Libyan television channels to broadcast after having disappeared with the political unrest, as well as to the creation of more  public specialized channels, especially sports ones.

As for the fields of specialization, we find that 254 channels are generalist in their programming, with no dominating specialty in their content. Movies and drama, as well as news lead the trend to adopting one theme content, with 162 channels for the former and 144 for the latter, closely followed by religious channels, which stand at 123 broadcasters, both Moslem and Christian.  Sports (96) and lifestyle channels arealso widely present in the landscape.

In addition to the growth in numbers of the private sector, the Report also notices an expansion in the geographical coverage of Arab satellite broadcasting, bringing the signal to all points of the globe , including Australia, New Zealand and the Americas.

The Arabic language and dialects used in the broadcast take the lead as expected, while English and French are in the forefront of foreign language broadcasts, followed by Hindi and Kurdish, in addition to Afghani (Urdu), Kurdish, Spanish, and Turkish. Amazeegh, Hassani, and Berber are also used to reach minority target audiences.

In addition, the Arab region can monitor and watch international channels targeting its population and mostly using the Arabic language and Arab satellites. They include: BBC Arabic, France 24, Germany's Dutchwelle, the Arabic-speaking channel RAI, Russia Today , CCTV Arabic (China), as well as Turkish, Korean, Chadian and other channels.