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Description of the current situation of Arab satellite channels

The 2010 Arab Satellite Broadcasting Report aims at producing a clear and comprehensive picture on how Satellite Broadcasting is developing in the Arab region. It does so mostly through statistical data on the overall number of channels, their categories, broadcasting types, geographical coverage and the languages they use.

It also compares such data with satellite broadcasting developments worldwide, as far as financing, advertising, deontology are concerned, ending up with a critical reading of the situation and suggesting some recommendations.

The Arab Satellite Broadcasting Report is issued by the High Committee for Coordination among Arab Satellite Channels, for which the Arab States Broadcasting Union (ASBU) ensures the Technical Secretariat. Different techniques are used to collect data, including surveying the channels themselves and the satellite carrier organizations (Arabsat, Nilesat, Noorsat).

The Report shows that the satellite broadcasting sector has been going through major and rapid changes since the mid-nineties. By the end of 2010, there were 470 Arab corporations, either broadcasting their own signal or re-broadcasting programming from other sources. Twenty-six of them are government-owned, while 444 corporations are privately-owned.

All of those corporations broadcast or re-broadcast on their networks 733 channels, using 17 satellites, mostly Arabsat, Nilesat and Noorsat. Among those channels, 124 are owned by Arab governments (61 general content, 63 specialized), while private companies own 609 channels (182 general content, 427 specialized). Fields of specialty in the public ownership are mostly sports (20 channels) and drama or educational (13 each).

While all public channels (general and specialized) are open to air, 142 out of 609 privately-owned ones chose pay TV. Music and entertainment top the list of specialized TV (87), drama comes second (54), followed by entertainment (53) and news (39).

Satellite broadcasting mainly covers the Arab region and extended parts of Europe. Geographical coverage is quickly expanding to include more and more area in America, Asia, Africa and even Oceania. To achieve such a goal, channels mostly resort to the Arab Unified Bouquet, initiated by ASBU and carried by OPTUS 3, Telestar, Asiasat, NSS and Hotbird.

As expected, most of the broadcasting uses the Arabic language, either fully or partly. Still, more than 13 %, or 97 of all channels, use English, distantly followed by French (8). Other languages used include Hindi, Imazighen, Spanish, Hebrew, Farsi, Malay and Urdu.

Several foreign broadcasters also target the Arab region. They use Arabic-language programming and include BBC Arabic, France 24, Germany’s DW, Italian RAI, Turkish, Korean and Chadian channelsto name a few.

Download an Arabic-language, full copy of the 2010 Report