Tareq Swaydan, who runs the Islamic satellite TV stations al-Rasala, is coming under fire because of the station's relationship with the Rotana group, which of course owns the most popular music video station and is thus ground zero for the famed Nancy-Haifa culture wars. In a long interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat, Swaydan defends the relationship today.
I'm less interested in his defense than in just noting how this highlights something that has long been one of the most fascinating contradictions in the Arab media environment: the common Saudi ownership of both the most religious satellite television stations and the most sexually explicit music video stations. Swaydan argues that his station's chief rival - Amr Khaled's Iqra - has a similar relationship with ART, which runs lots of Western content, and that the important thing is to judge each station by its own content not by its management.
The sudden controversy over Rotana and Rasala highlights some fundamental issues surrounding the purpose and motivations behind various Arab TV stations: are they about propagating a particular political or cultural message, "vanity statements" for the owners or operators, or making money? Probably some of each. But the exact mix is an interesting question to explore, especially as we try and figure out the likely implications of ever-increasing market competition for the content of Arab media.