Al-Yaum daily recently reported Iyad Madani, Minister of Culture and Information, saying his ministry will soon start to give permissions to more FM radio stations to broadcast in the Kingdom. For the past few (many?) years, the air was restricted to state radio stations in addition to Dubai-based MBC Network, which operates the most popular two stations here: MBC-FM and Panorama FM. So, now that the air is open, what would you like to listen to? How about a hit rock/pop/hip-hop station? Jazz, anyone?
I can imagine that many permissions would be given to religious radio stations. That’s alright, as long as permissions are not limited to a certain sect or ideology. It is hard to imagine, though, that this would be the case, but let’s keep our fingers crossed. Diversity is always good and desirable, especially in media.
Speaking of diversity in media, I can expect that at least some of you have read this Reuters piece on some efforts to make local media more liberal-friendly. There are a few encouraging sparkles, but I believe saying a liberal trend is taking on media here is an exaggeration. I guess it is the curse of living in a very conservative society: sometimes a small step is considered a huge leap.
Ironically, islamists such as Saad al-Buraik always talk about a liberal domination on local media, including state television, radio and newspapers. I really don’t know what he is talking about, because the likes of him and Mohammed al-Nujaimi are in the media all the time, and if they are not in the media, they are most probably giving a speech in a mosque, a university, or a camp.
Maybe I have a leaky memory, so could anyone please remind me when was the last time you have seen the likes of Turki al-Hamad, Khalid al-Dakhil, Iman al-Qahtani, Matruk al-Faleh, Badria al-Bisher, Abdullah al-Hamed, etc. on TV or giving a public speech? Many islamist are plainly lying when they say their air time has been decreased; they are still visible as ever in every media outlet.
They are actually going crazy because their iron fist control over media — and society in general — is not as tight as it used to be, particularly after September 11 and May 12. They can’t live with the fact that some parts of the media have started to give a little space for a different voice, or even better, to many different voices.