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Media and sectarianism in the Middle East: Saudi hegemony over Pan-Arab media

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Powerful political and economic players allocate significance resources in order to influence the media in ways that advance their interests. This article attempts to reveal the mechanisms that the ruling Saudi family uses to exert its power over pan-Arab media. It argues that Al Saud uses ownership, sponsorship, cooptation and coercion to keep pan-Arab media in line with its policies. It also asserts that the main consequence of Saudi domination of pan-Arab media today is not to divert Arab public opinion away from politics, as was the case in the 1990s; rather it is to set a sectarian agenda as a means to counter Iran’s influence in some Arab countries. Using frame analysis of a representative sample of eight programmes broadcast between 2012 and 2016 by three Salafi TV channels owned and sponsored by Al Saud, the article demonstrates that sponsoring a sectarian agenda may also encourage terrorism. It also reveals frame convergence between the messages of the Salafi channels and that of ISIL. Saudi media policy thus increases the visibility of ISIL’s messages and renders them credible, leading to the expansion of ISIL’s capability for recruitment.

Keywords: Arab media; ISIL; Salafi channels; Saudi Arabia; frame alignment; media message; sectarianism; social movements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Queen’s University

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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  • The International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics is committed to analyzing the politics of communication(s) and cultural processes. It addresses cultural politics in their local, international and global dimensions, recognizing equally the importance of issues defined by their specific cultural geography and those that traverse cultures and nations.
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