A Normative Study of Broadcast Regulators in the Arab World
Eleven Arab countries have embarked on the process of creating broadcast regulators. This article investigates the general context for their creation, examines their internal organization to evaluate their independence from state control, and analyzes relevant media legislation to assess the extent of political interference with media contents. The article uses normative theory based on international norms as articulated in the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to determine whether Arab broadcast media regulation is congruent with international norms. The study questions whether the regulatory bodies are genuine media reforms meant to liberalize the broadcast sector or pseudoreforms meant to allow the Arab states indirect but total control over broadcasting. The study found that the broadcast reforms are part of what Heydemann calls “authoritarian upgrading.” Arab regimes control media content through repressive laws outside the realm of international norms set up by the United Nations covenant and through regulatory institutions that lack independence. The study adopts a multimethod combining qualitative document analysis and in-depth interviews.