NU-Q white paper calls for improved research and expanded education on Arab media

January 08, 2012

A just-released white paper from Northwestern University in Qatar urges academics and practitioners to shrug off the bureaucratic restrictions and outdated practices that have arrested the development of Arab media’s teaching curriculum and research agenda for decades.

Titled “From Media Revolution to Street Revolution: Twenty years of Arab Commercial Satellite Television” the white paper is the result of a symposium that the prestigious communications and journalism school hosted recently at its Doha campus.  The symposium brought together media scholars and professionals from the UK, France, the US, Qatar and Jordan to explore innovative vistas for teaching and researching Arab media.

Against the backdrop of revolutions sweeping the Middle East, the white paper examines ongoing changes in the region’s media environment, the role of media education, and what implications the current uprisings have on research, twenty years after the start of commercial satellite television in the Arab world.

The white paper notes that in spite of the dynamism of Arab television industries, teaching and researching of Arab media are often restricted by bureaucracies and obsolete practices.

The document highlights three specific areas of concern when it comes to teaching and researching Arab media: the disconnect between academic institutions and professional media organizations, the prevalence of premature analyses that often dominate the discourse on Arab media, and the narrow scope and lack of historical perspective that typically characterize research and education on Arabic language media.

“Structures of partnership and collaboration have to be established and encouraged. These must benefit from international frameworks and indigenous experiences,” suggests the paper, while adding that any co-operation must also include the actual media stakeholders: academics and practitioners, journalists and filmmakers, artists and writers.

Emphasizing the importance of historical records for future generations of academics, the white paper points out that “with 50 years of national television and twenty years of commercial satellite television, there is an urgent need to consider archiving media artifacts both mainstream and alternative.”

Further recommendations include calls to explore tools that encourage creative and critical thinking; re-conceptualize the notion of Arab media to reflect the complexities arising from converging technologies, multinational productions and different political economies; and expand the analysis of Arab media to non-traditional forms of media, particularly social, alternative and performative.

“This is the start of a debate on Arab media’s teaching curriculum and research agenda and is an area where the roles of educational institutions and media industries become so important,” says Joe Khalil, a visiting professor at NU-Q and expert on Arab television production and programming who convened the symposium.

“The idea for this symposium echoed a general belief that it is time to look back and look forward at our mission as educators and researchers interested in the region. The Arab media scene is in a state of flux as a result of the Arab Awakening, and it is a great time to examine the impact of satellite television and also look at issues related to media professions, research agendas, and collaborative works,” adds Khalil.

NU-Q dean and CEO Everette E. Dennis commented, “Northwestern University in Qatar hopes to contribute to media education in the region by both supporting these types of symposia and implementing the innovative research and education that this paper encourages.”