Saturday, January 12, 2008

Iraqi TV After 2003

It is really amazing to find out that there are 28 Iraqi satellite channels exists today. At least this is what I managed to count so far. All these channels were launched after the end of war, and the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003. The former Iraqi regime used to prohibit the use of a sattelite dish - Anyone caught owning a dish on the roof of his house will face punishment and imprisonment, one of them I heard had such a fate was an old neighbor of mine. The Iraqi government had two ground channels and one official satellite channel. The sattelite channel has been bombed by the US during the last war. I still remember the final images from that channel, particularly, the repetition of a song by young Iraqi singer, Qasim Al Sultan, carrying a golden Klashinkof, standing in the middle of old and young soldiers, and singing for Iraq - after the war there were many romurs that this singer was shot dead for singing that song! After the end of the war, the wave of "independent" channels began with the launch of Alsharqiya TV, a channel made and still managed by Saad Al Bazaz (former head of Iraqi TV and owner of Azzaman newspaper). The channel also sponsored financially by Sheikhs from the United Arab Emirates. When Alsharqiya began broadcasting, it brought a smile on the faces of many Iraqis, especially those living abroad for so many years, because it carried the same spirit Iraqi TV used to have during the 1970 and the 1980s (if I can describe it in such a way correctly).

However, Alsharqiya became one of many channels, when the US government decided to have its own media means in Iraq, by launching AlHurra, which runs on the same frequency the ex-official Iraqi satellite TV used to run on before the fall of the regime. Al Hurra was clearly a CNN but in Arabic, so the effort was put to launch another channel, Al Iraqiya, which became the official TV station for "new Iraq"! With the flow of money coming from all directions into Iraq - regardless of the financiall or political profit can be gained, the number of satellite channels increased rapidly. We have now Al Furat, which is sponsored by Abdel Aziz Al Hakim. There are other Shiite orientated channels, such as Al Zahara, Ahl Al Beet, Karbala and Salam TV. However, other ethnic groups in Iraq decided to follow suit and have their own echo heard through the ether: Some of them were there before the fall of the regime of Saddam, such as Kurdistan TV, and KurdSat - The latter began during the late 1990s advertising late night half naked girls, and a telephone number with Arabic and Kurdish text on top of the screen!

Most of Iraqi channels are trying so hard to be colorful with the variety of shows they broadcast; Al Diyar TV, for example, focuses on domestic issue in Iraq more than anything else. Also, there is Al Fayhaa TV, a channel launched first from the United Arab Emirates after the fall of the regime, and played a big role during the last elections and during the trail of Saddam in the past two years, by broadcasting live interviews and live phonecalls with ordinary Iraqis from around the globe, which I think put the cast of that channel into problems and caused it suddenly to diminish with its popularity later on! Worth noting other TV channels trying so hard to boost their popularity among the wave of Iraqi and Arabic satellite channels, such as Afaq, alsumaria and Baladi. In addition, there are regional satellite channels, such as Salah Il Dien TV, which gives news and information on the activities taking place in that province.

There are some other channels launched with the help of other countries, such as Turkmen TV (with the support of Turkey of this ethnic group), and to ensure the rights of other minorities, other ethnic groups, such as Christians launched their own TV stations, such as Ashur TV, Bet Al Nahrain TV, and Ishtar TV stations, which shed some light on the activities of Iraqis abroad as well as inside the country.

Other channels were directly hostile towards the US troops, such as Al Zawra, did not have anything but low quality fragments of attacks by armed groups against US forces in Iraq, mostly taken from the internet, mainly, and with a news bulletin running horizontally below the screen announcing the latest news and messages coming across on latest "victories against the occupier". The channel used to broadcast from Egypt, and caused some sort of crisis between Egyptian and US government because the latter wanted to close that channel forever. One other TV channel broadcasting from Egypt, known for its use of advanced TV technology is Al Baghdadia TV. This channel remains the center of attention and in my opinion the only one that can compete with Alsharqiya regarding the nature of shows and news update it brings to the viewers.

By the end of 2006, different types of Iraqi channels were launched. The variety which established competition among TV channels pushed some to launch specialized TV channels. We now see Iraqi channels limited to sport events and news, such as Iraq Sport. In addition, music channels showing young men and women never seen before as singers in video clips now can be seen 24 hours a day. One of these music channels called Vinus - I heard that it is broadcasting from the United Arab Emirates.

One might ask the question: does such channels feed the separation of Iraqis taking into the consideration the ethnic and political crisis we have in Iraq? Some argue that this is the consequences of decades of dictatorship, which resulted now in a chaotic atmosphere, even in the media. Others argue that this democracy and every Iraqi have the right to express his opinion and point of view the way he or she sees suitable. But would that enlarge the gap between anarchy and freedom?


Abbey said...

I can only talk in generalisations Mix, but I presume it would be better for a country to have too many, than not enough or of one type...

but as a veiwer one should watch a balance of media so as not to have a limitted it could enforce separatism...

does that make sense?

MixMax said...

very much so, Abbey, I agree with you