Al Mayadeen TV's Incomplete Promise

Ghassan Ben Jeddo’s new TV channel can only be trusted if it’s completely transparent about the source of its funding.

“The biggest problem is people’s inability to differentiate between Al Jazeera and the Qatari government. Al Jazeera is totally independent from the government although it is funded by it”. Those were the words of Ghassan ben Jeddo back in 2006 in an interview with Habib Battah. Back then Ben Jeddo was a champion of Aljazeera and its role in the world. 6 years later, we now know how naive that statement was. The golden rule of TV stations has reestablished itself: He who has the gold makes the rules.

The basic idea of Almayadeen is to become what Aljazeera used to be: An independent Arab channel that is generally objective and not afraid to stick it to the big guys. We can expect a channel that is friendlier to the dwindling “resistance” axis (Hezbollah, Iran, Assad’s Syria), but Ben Jeddo’s personality and ideas are sufficiently nuanced (he’s both friendly to Hezbollah and to the USA) that we can safely rule out an Almanar without the veils and religious overtones or an Arabic version of PressTV.

Follow the Money

But who is paying for the hundreds of international reporters, big city news desks and bilboard advertisements covering Beirut? As the experience of Aljazeera and Qatar has taught us, promises are not enough. Mr. Ben Jeddo says that the station will be “keen to present the full picture, precise information, and to convey things as they are, in a professional media language committed to professionalism and balance”, but how can we tell that once the station builds enough viewership and trust it won’t pull an Aljazeera when propaganda really matters to the funders?

Mr Ben Jeddo’s coyness about the funding is worrying. He stressed in a press conference that the station was not funded by an Arab state or regime. But that formulation excludes non-Arab states (Iran? Turkey?) and non-state actors (Hezbollah? ambitious billionaires?). The crowded media market also insures that they’re not counting on commercial success anytime soon. The fact that there’s no transparency about the station’s funding throws into doubt the stations’ motto of covering “reality as it is”.

It’s the mask, not the backer that is troubling

I don’t have a problem with stations funded by interest groups or people. Knowing that Future TV is funded by the Hariri family or that France 24 is funded by the french tax payer allows me to know where they’re coming from and helps me see conflicts of interests. Even Aljazeera was forthcoming about being financed by the Qatari government, but we all trusted it because we thought the Qatari government was not a significant regional player.

But when you’re opaque about your endless funding and make empty promises about objectivity and independence, you freak me out. I’d rather watch Official Syrian TV. At least you know where they’re coming from.

 

  • Passingby

    Russia is rich and willing to regain influence too…

  • http://oussama-hayek.blogspot.com/ OH

    Excellent post, Mustapha.

    This makes me think of time I also wrote to Minister Mitri about the media transparency law a while ago, at your suggestion, Mustapha. (http://oussama-hayek.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/media-reform-through-transparency-open.html) At that time, he replied and said it was a good idea. But I don’t think many people think the same!

    This is one of the few areas where I think governent intervention is necessary to ensure the proper functioning of the market. Markets are only efficient when consumers have all relevant information about the choices they make. Otherwise, I really don’t care if a media outlet is funded by Iran or Israel. As long as I know who is funding it, I can make up my own mind.

  • Antidisestablishmentarianism

    the same could be said of any tv station really, especially AlJazeera- now ‘trusted’ by millions

  • http://khiju.blogspot.com Khizr Imran

    A little something about Beirut from my recent visit in December 2011. Visit http://khiju.blogspot.com/2012/06/beirut-diaries-preamble.html to read the preamble.

  • wsmlk

    any person who’s familiar with this 3rd rate journalist knows his latest ploy nothing but an Iran-funded “resistance” propaganda. can’t wait to see how objective his reporting on HA and Assad’s killing machine will be!

    • http://beirutspring.com alex

      lets wait and see??? but in regards to your comment name me one news outlet or tv station that is not biased in lebanon? their ALL there to shovel their views

      • wsmlk

        >>name me one news outlet or tv station that is not biased in lebanon..
        none exists, and that’s my point why do you expect this guy to be any different!

  • abu ali

    لماذا تشوهون تراث ابراهيم طوقان بكلام مبتذل ومن هذا الذي تجرأ على تبديل (هل أراك) وهي للتمني ، أي اتمنى أن أراك ، بكلام سخيف يشوه المعنى الشاعري الجميل
    ألا ترون أن ” يا رعاك ” يشوه المعنى ويفقده جماليته الشعرية ؟

  • Mehdi

    I enjoyed reading your concise input.

    I agree that we all were disappointed by Aljazeera, and what can we expect when a newly crawling regional player will need all its cards to change opinions to their favour.

    However, the first thing that came to my mind when I heard about Mr Bin Jiddo’s initiative was “this guy is not likely to live through the night”! I am still not sure how long people will tolerate him. I remember him clearly from his contributions on Aljazeera and deeply respect him. If he wants to keep his objective, unbias, pan-arabic, view intact such as he is today, he will be knocked out literary or metaphorically by big regional players. Lebanon is an unstable country, and today’s friendly government can change in no time, allowing a hostile government to come in place. What will Mr Bin Jiddo and Co do when an anti-Hezbollah government comes in place and puts pressure on the channel?
    What will he and Co do when the Saudi backed salafi/political movements threaten him and his co?

    I also share your concern in regards to his funding sources, but without sharing your rationale. Aljazeera or Al Mayadeen are not football clubs, once you are a fan of one you tend to stick to that. Hence, as long as Al Mayadeen is delivering an unbias pan-arabic view of the reality “as it is”, one can follow them. As soon as they loose it, you can delete their channel, or choose another news channel.

  • Rodolphe Naccache

    Frankly, we don’t give a damn where they are getting the funding.

    When you see how the BBC, Al Arabiya, and Al jazeera are getting their funding from…you don’t ask anymore.

    It is a new TV station that will stand in the face of those who have sold their soul to the devil.

  • Rodolphe Naccache

    Oh and I forgot to tell you – your blog also looks real fishy, seriously. How much were you paid to do this page as a propaganda ?? If you give me some, I’ll also sell my soul like you ;-)

  • Rodolphe Naccache

    France 24 is funded by tax payers ? but it is controlled by Zionists.

  • Rodolphe Naccache

    “…but we all trusted it because we thought the Qatari government was not a significant regional player”

    French elected officials are today worried because they recognize that Qatar is one of the states that spends the most money funding Islamic terrorism in the region and on a global scale.

  • Bronxman

    The only way to be informed in today’s media climate is to take on a lot of diferent views, which also includes media outlets outside of Lebanon. Then make up your own mind – and you’ll know the reason why you have this or that opinion.