The bureaucratic restrictions and outdated practices that have stalled the development of teaching and researching Arab media for decades should be shrugged off, a paper has urged.
According to the paper, "From Media Revolution to Street Revolution: Twenty years of Arab Commercial Satellite Television," teaching and researching Arab media have been severely restricted and have failed to match the dynamism of Arab television industries.
The paper, released by Northwestern University in Qatar, is the result of a symposium that the communications and journalism school has hosted recently at its Doha campus.
The symposium brought together media scholars and professionals from the UK, France, the US, Qatar and Jordan to explore innovative vistas for teaching and researching Arab media.
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Against the backdrop of changes in the Middle East, the paper looks at ongoing changes in the region's media environment, the role of media education and the implications of the current uprisings on research, 20 years after the start of commercial satellite television in the Arab world.
The document highlights the disconnect between academic institutions and professional media organisations, the prevalence of premature analyses that often dominate the discourse on Arab media, and the narrow scope and lack of historical perspective that typically characterise research and education on Arabic language media.
"Structures of partnership and collaboration have to be established and encouraged. These must benefit from international frameworks and indigenous experiences," the paper suggested. "Any co-operation must include the actual media stakeholders - academics and practitioners, journalists and filmmakers, artists and writers."
The paper emphasises the importance of historical records for future generations of academics. "With 50 years of national television and 20 years of commercial satellite television, there is an urgent need to consider archiving media artifacts both mainstream and alternative."
Further recommendations include calls to explore tools that encourage creative and critical thinking, to re-conceptualize the notion of Arab media to reflect the complexities arising from converging technologies, multinational productions and different political economies, and to expand the analysis of Arab media to non-traditional forms of media, particularly social, alternative and performative.
"This is the start of a debate on Arab media's teaching curriculum and research agenda and is an area where the roles of educational institutions and media industries become so important," said Joe Khalil, a visiting professor at NU-Q and expert on Arab television production and programming who convened the symposium.
"The idea for this symposium echoed a general belief that it is time to look back and look forward at our mission as educators and researchers interested in the region. The Arab media scene is in a state of flux as a result of the Arab Awakening, and it is a great time to examine the impact of satellite television and also look at issues related to media professions, research agendas, and collaborative works," he said.
Everette E. Dennis, NU-Q dean and CEO, said: "Northwestern University in Qatar hopes to contribute to media education in the region by both supporting these types of symposia and implementing the innovative research and education that this paper encourages."