Within seven years the number of satellite TV channels broadcasting to the Arab world has quadrupled, passing the 500 mark, most being broadcast from Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, anal-ysts say, the region has abundant opportunities for more.
According to the study by Arab Advisors Group, the number of free-to-air (FTA) satellite channels targeting the Arab world increased by 10.5 per cent in the 12 months from April 2010.
Their number rose from 448 to 538 during this period, with 37 being in the testing phase and 501 fully operational. The channels are broadcast on the three satellites Arabsat, Nilesat and Noorsat.
The FTA landscape has grown enormously in the past decade through an increase of "438 per cent between January 2004 and April 2011," according to the report by the Amman-based group.
"Yes, the Arab market is absorbing [the high number of TV channels]," said Dima Abu Rub, an analyst with Arab Advisors Group.
"The proof of that is the constantly increasing number. It appears the market can absorb even more TV channels."
The Satellite TV in the Arab World 2011 report provides a detailed analysis of the FTA channels targeting the region. They are analysed according to type, broadcast language, headquarters and ownership as well as satellite carriers. Three satellite systems are used due to the fact that the majority of the FTA channels targeting the region are aired on one or more of these.
The highest number were the private sector general channels followed by government-owned general channels. The majority of the FTA channels are broadcast in Arabic, with a few broadcasting in Turkish, Persian, French, Kurdish and German.
Without giving any figures due to their policy of placing these reports for commercial sales, Abu Rub noted that "the private-sector general channels constitute slightly more than 20 per cent of the channels", while the general channels owned by governments comprise less than 20 per cent.
"In line with the liberalisation of the audio-visual sector in the region, the number of private satellite channels exceeds the number of government-owned channels," said Mohammad Al Shawwa, an analyst at the Arab Advisors Group. "Over two-thirds of the operational FTA satellite channels are privately owned."
An example of a privately-owned general channel is MBC1, one of the main channels of Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC). It was the first
pan-Arab free-to-air private satellite channel to be launched in 1991 in London.
Other channels in the group are MBC2 and MBC4, MBC Max and MBC Action, which broadcast movies, entertainment programmes and soap operas. MBC 3 is dedicated to children's programming, while Al Arabiya is the specialised news channel of the group and comes after Doha-based Al Jazeera, according to surveys. The Qatari channel is also categorised as primarily a news channel owned by the government.
Following the private and government owned channels come the religious and news channels. The majority of these are based in Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt hosts 17.6 per cent of the fully launched and operational FTA channels. "Saudi Arabia and the UAE follow with percentages of 17 and 14.4 respectively," an earlier report from Arab Advisors Group added.
"Egypt is like the media city of the Arab world," said Abu Rub. "It has the biggest media production city in the Arab world, so it is just natural to have the highest number of FTA channels broadcasting from Egypt."
While the good economic situation and the available wealth explain the high number of channels broadcasting from Saudi Arabia, "the majority are religious." As for the UAE, the general environment is considered attractive for television channels.
Apart from media freedom, the generally attractive environment for investment and "the lower taxes than in other countries, play a role in encouraging investments," Abu Rub said.
The UAE has a large share of entertainment channels followed by privately-owned general public channels.
From / Gulf News