The Culture of Al Jazeera

Inside an Arab Media Giant

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About the Book

In the mid 1990s, the emir of Qatar conceived the idea of a satellite channel that would further the progressive image he hoped to establish for his small Arabian/Persian Gulf state. At the same time, a short-lived partnership between the BBC and a Saudi company had left a handful of BBC-trained Arab journalists and broadcasters up for grabs. That was the inception of Al Jazeera—a satellite channel which changed forever the face of Arab broadcasting with its uncensored news and bold talk show programs. The September 11 attacks on the United States and the war on terrorism vaulted Al Jazeera to international prominence but also turned it into a source of controversy. Despite the controversy—or perhaps in part because of it—in less than a decade the channel has transformed itself from an obscure regional news broadcaster to a multi-channel, multi-lingual, multi-service global enterprise.

This book’s in-depth look at Al Jazeera examines whether its global success reflects particular organizational strengths. It explores whether Al Jazeera is merely a fad thriving on the thirst for free speech in the Middle East, or a new medium whose success will be sustained by its organizational culture and model. This work delves deep into the culture, workings and challenges of this powerful media organization to provide insights on its achievements, its future, and the true measure of its success.

About the Author(s)

Mohamed Zayani is an associate professor of critical theory at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar and author of Networked Publics and Digital Contention.

Sofiane Sahraouiis an associate professor of management information systems at the American University of Sharjah, UAE, and a research fellow at the University of Brunel, UK.

Bibliographic Details

Mohamed Zayani and Sofiane Sahraoui

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 214
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2961-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1201-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Preface      1
Introduction      13

I. An Unconventional Media Player      23
II. Critical Success Factors      35
III. In Search of a Core Capability      43
IV. Unraveling the Business Model      50
V. Values and Beliefs      57
VI. The Power Game      69
VII. The People Organization      86
VIII. Beyond Money      108
IX. The Knowledge Imperative      115
X. Al Jazeera at the Crossroads      132
XI. Surviving Change      151
XII. Innovation and Expansion      163
XIII. The Road Ahead      171

Chapter Notes      179
Bibliography      191
Index      201

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “recommended”—Midwest Book Review
  • “an important book…highly recommended”—International Journal of Communication
  • “this is one of the most innovative and in-depth studies of Al Jazeera channel to have been published in several years…in this rich case study, the authors offer a fascinating portrait of a network struggling to find its identity”—European Journal of Communication
  • “this book is a real contribution to expanding our methodological and conceptual horizons as they pertain to Arab media…an important contribution to Arab media scholarship”—Global Media Journal