Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Identifier

215

Date

2011

Date of Award

3-30-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication

Committee Chair

John A. Campbell

Committee Member

Sandra J. Sarkela

Committee Member

David G. Matthews

Committee Member

Kent F. Schull

Abstract

The Doha-based, pan-Arab "al-Jazeera Satellite Channel" came to life on November 1, 1996 by a Qatari Emiri decree, and began a 24-hour operationon February 1, 1998. Although sponsored by an autocratic government that is similar to other Arab regimes in terms of the wide gap separating them fromtheir masses, al-Jazeera has become, and continues to be, the most popular and trusted news channel in the Arabworld. Media scholars and commentators agree that the popularity of al-Jazeera derives mainly fromits identification with the radicalism of the Arab public, as evidenced by the starkly anti-establishment tone characterizing much of the medium's discourses. There is a disagreement, however, over the meaning and implications of the Channel's anti-establishment discourses. Some argue that al-Jazeera is radicalizing the Arab audiences; others argue that it is moderating the beliefs of both of the Arab publicand the Arab regimes. Nottaking the Channel's radical discourses literally, however, a third group of scholars and commentators argues that al-Jazeera isin line with other official mass media whose objective is to advance and defend the interests of the host-government. Al-Jazeera, then, may help perpetuate Arab autocracy. Alternatively, I argue that both the radicalizing- and moderating effect perspectives do not provide an accurate interpretation of the Channel's anti-establishment discourses and their implications. I also contend that the third group's argument has more credibility. However, whilethe proponents of the third argument tell us what al-Jazeera does, they rarely tell us how al-Jazeera does it. To answer this animating question, and in order to discern thetrue nature and motives of al-Jazeera's political rhetoric, I offer a close reading of the Channel's political discourses on issues that sharply divide theArab public from the Qatari government and other Arab regimes. Textual evidence indicates that by initially identifying itself with the viewers' radicalism, al-Jazeera, indirectly, deflects such radicalism and channels it towards non-violent political ideologiesthat are conducive to the Qatari interests and policies. Furthermore, by indirectly connecting Qatar with the anti-establishment viewers, al-Jazeera re-invents Qatari autocracy depicting it as an acceptable form of governance.

Comments

Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.

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