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April 21, 2006


John Burgess

Clarification, please! Why do you have "former dissidents" in quotes?

Is it that you doubt that the description is accurate?

No snark, just puzzled.

the aardvark

Sorry, I just meant that "former dissident" is how people like Salman Awda are often identified on screen - not making any suggestions abouut whether they are actually dissidents or actually former...

It would make a big difference obviously if al-Arabiya were giving air time to "current dissidents"... though still perhaps good for attracting Saudi audiences? Hmm... that could actually be an interesting test of the market incentives vs political incentives question, actually.

Toby Jones

In fact, and this is quite an interesting dynamic in Saudi domestic politics, Salman al-Awdah now straddles the line between current and former dissident. He dissents on foreign policy issues quite strongly, while he has clearly begun to toe the state-line on local issues. Even so, in terms of public perception --and I have absolutely zero useful evidence to back this up, only anecdotal material gathered the last time I was in KSA a year ago -- people like al-Awdah (especially his fellow sahwa types) are still looked to as critical voices. I was told by winners in the Riyadh municipal council elections (who are mostly connected with the Saudi Muslim Brothers just like al-Awdah) in 2005 that they won in part because they were perceived at least as being not co-opted by the government, if not outright dissenters. Al-Arabiyya no doubt understands this dynamic well, especially with Turki al-Dakhil and Hussein Shabakshi heading up major parts of the channel's programming.


Fascinating! I should insert throwaway quote marks more often just to elicit commentary like that. So Awdah and company would in fact be good attractions for Saudi audiences, while also being acceptable to the Saudi regime... nice programming work, if you can get it. Dakhil is a shrewd cookie (and Shabakshi too, for all I know).


I'm more interested in Al-Arabiya's credibility. Their survey report comes from Ipsos-STAT? Isn't that the same outfit that provides Al-Hurra's numbers -- you know, the ones Al-Hurra never actually produces? I'll believe Al-Arabiya has the lead in Saudi Arabia as soon as they publish a credible report!

What do you think, Abu Aardvark?

the aardvark

Well, I'm an equal opportunity skeptic.... I don't put much confidence in any privately-commissioned research which is selectively released for PR purposes. That's why I've been campaigning for an independent ratings agency, to get around those kinds of problems.

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