BOB GARFIELD: One of the few winners in this conflict is Arab satellite TV. Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and Saudi-based Al-Arabiya remain the top news outlets in the region, but the fighting has given new prominence to a number of Lebanese stations — LBC, NBN, Future and New TV. Once they served only small demographic niches. Now they're a leading source of news from the front line.
With their growing stature comes a renewed focus on the political tension within Lebanon, as each homegrown broadcaster wrestles with Hezbollah and national unity under fire. Usually these debates are closed to us because of the language barrier, but "Mosaic" is trying to change all that. The program is a half-hour roundup of the best news from Arab satellite television, translated into English and broadcast to cable subscribers in the United States.
"Mosaic" producer Jamal Dajani joins us now for a look at the TV coverage of the growing war. Jamal, welcome to the program.
JAMAL DAJANI: Thank you for having me.
BOB GARFIELD: Well, let's begin with Al-Jazeera. Two of their correspondents were arrested earlier this week near Haifa, and the Israeli government has been clamping down on how much can be reported from there. Tell me what happened in that incident and how you would characterize Al-Jazeera's coverage in Israel in general.
JAMAL DAJANI: Al-Jazeera has been bringing coverage from all different sides. They've had Israeli generals and political analysts and journalists. They've had Saudis talking there. They've had Kuwaitis. They had Lebanese. And, in general, it is the most watched channel.
And what happened in that incident is that they were accused of helping the enemy, Hezbollah, of identifying the targeted areas. Now, from Al-Jazeera's perspective, they were saying they weren't doing anything different than other media outlets.
BOB GARFIELD: Does Al-Jazeera's coverage differ in any way from, for example, Al-Arabiya or LBC or the other popular TV news outlets?
JAMAL DAJANI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there is a major difference between, for example, Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. And Al-Arabiya has taken, in fact, in its narrative, the Saudi position. There's more criticism about Nasrallah personality, the persona of Nasrallah. The -
BOB GARFIELD: Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader.
JAMAL DAJANI: Nasrallah, Hezbollah leader, and it's unprecedented for the first time that you have the Saudis early on criticize the actions of Hezbollah and call Nasrallah's actions, in essence, reckless adventurism.
Now, the Lebanese, on the other hand, now, we have to divide them all and categorize them. You have the Sunnis, the Shiites, the Christians, and they have different tones. The LBC, for example — this is a Christian-operated television network — has been very critical of Nasrallah. They have been very critical that he has dragged them into a war of destruction.
Future Television, which is also Sunni — this is a Muslim station — they were very critical also with Hezbollah until yesterday. Yesterday they had an interview with Hariri, who is the son of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and he changed his tone a little bit, because, you know, after the first 50 bombs has dropped on Beirut, the tone has been changing. Now we're going, you know, the 50 bombs were okay, but 500 bombs are not okay.
So now he has been addressing his constituency, in essence, through Future TV and telling them now we have to unite, and we'll deal with our differences later.
BOB GARFIELD: Jamal, have you seen anything on any of these channels in the last week that has surprised you?
JAMAL DAJANI: Well, I think what surprised me is what I don't see and how the coverage was done during the Iraqi war. The major difference, the absence of many of the channels — and I'm talking about other than Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and the Lebanese — there has been an absence of the Jordanians, the Saudis, the Kuwaitis, the channels from the Gulf, like the Abu-Dhabi and so forth. It seems like they have a very little investment in this war.
And I think that's an indication of the split opinion from their own governments. I wouldn't say it's the public opinion, but definitely it's the position of the countries.
BOB GARFIELD: What about the Iraq war? Has it disappeared from these channels for the duration?
JAMAL DAJANI: This is a great question. I think in one day I counted over 100 people dead in Iraq. That story didn't even take second, third, fourth — I don't know where it was. It was buried somewhere else. This war in Lebanon, at least for the time being, is causing a major shift in resources as far as the importance of Iraq. And you see it definitely evident in those stations that I'm talking about now, real news stations, Iraq coverage has been dismal.
BOB GARFIELD: All right. Well, Jamal, thank you so much.
JAMAL DAJANI: Thank you.
BOB GARFIELD: Jamal Dajani is producer of "Mosaic," which appears on Link TV. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Coming up, separating the media outlet from the propaganda machine Рor not.