After the latest debacle that happened with my blog (see post below), I am pissed off, and I am ready for some good ranting; and what better subject to rant on other than the Media in Bahrain. so get ready and fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be one really llooooooooonnnngggg rant.
The media in Bahrain? Where can someone start with this highly regarded and long established institution. Well, to sum it up in one word: PATHETIC. But no, I am in one hell of a mood today, and nothing less than at least 5000 words will do. So first things first, let us start with the least inept one: Newspapers.
The arabic newspapers, it has to be said, compared with any other form of media, is the least worst off. It has especially gotten better in the last three years. They are the only medium which comments on important local events, and they do have some respectable writers.
However, the word better is to be taken extremely relatively here. Our newspapers are still, compared to western media, pretty pathetic. A lot of people say the main problem with it is that it is extremely biased. I don't think being biased or having a political slant is the main problem. There is not such thing as a purely objective newspaper. Newspapers in the Uk, such as the Guardian (left), The Daily Tele(Tory)graph, and the Independent all have a political bias. The main problem however, is that they usually, at worst, report outright lies, or, at best, they leave out so much of the information.
An example is the latest questioning by the MPs of the Minister of Finance over the Social Securities issue. Al Ayam and Akhbar Al Khaleej both reported that he made a magnificent performance, and that the MPs were stunned by his replies. They were in disarray, and the minister came out the clear victor. Al Wasat, however, and a lot of MPs, reported that the minister did not produce anything new, and that he kept avoiding specific questions about certain irregularities by giving general answers like, "We have done magnificent things over the last ten years. Just look at the numbers."
Now someone must be lying here. I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that people can have different interpretation of the same event, but this is like saying Bahrain played magnificently when they were thrashed 4-0 by Saudi Arabia in the World cup qualifiers.
Then we have our esteemed editors, who slash the columns written by journalists left right and center, and sometimes don't even publish them. They usually say we do this because we would get sued (the editors, and not the writers) if we published their material. Any decent press around the world has the rules that the writer himself is solely responsible for what is published, and not the editor. It is his viewpoint, and he carries the consequences alone. Even if an editor needs to slash out certain parts of columns, in Bahrain they do this without informing the writer himself. Witness the recent way writers such as Ali Saleh and others have left Al Wasat and Akhbar Al Khaleej over this issue. If you are going to change someone's words (and thus probably change his central message and give the wrong viewpoint across), have the decency of telling them this before hand!
Anyway, let us move on from this, there are much worse things to rant about, and one of them is: the GDN. This piece of turd pathetic excuse for a newspaper should be crumpled, eaten on, thrown for the dogs to rip up, and then burned with a heavy dose of gasoline. Now don't get me wrong, I love reading the GDN, but I read it to laugh. It is a satirical piece of writing, like Private Eye, and it is not even supposed to be one. It looks and has the exact qualities of an English tabloid newspaper, without having any of the benefits of a tabloid. God damn it, if you want to be a tabloid, at least be a proper one! Have some scoops on celebrities! Hell, maybe even a page 3 centerfold! Nope, none of that, the only scoop that GDN ever has is : "Yesterday some HOOLIGANS knocked over a dustbin in the Cornaish," or "Grade 3 St. Christopher School
children have learned the amazing talent of counting from 1 to 10 yesterday."
Let me, however, flood most of my ranting on the most cherished media outlet we have in Bahrain, and then one that fills all of our hearts with pride: the Bahrain TV channels.
The English and Americans are wrong. They did not invent reality TV or Big Brother. We had that way before any of them did. Anyone who has watched the eight o'clock news on Bahrain TV or ma7aliat will know what I mean. We had Big Brother beamed into our house everyday since the eighties. I used to know everything that a minister would do every day. Every night, we had 30 minutes of news telling us what Minister A did today, where he went, and what he said. I used to be able to tell by the clothes he'd be wearing what mood he'd be in Today. "OOh, look his shoulders are a bit stooped over today. He must be tired and not in such a good mood today." or "Wow, look at that flashy thoub, he must be boisterous today."
We don't get news, we got a Bahraini version of "Hello!" aired, where it is more of an events reporting 30 minutes rather than news. It is the same bulletin read over and over again, except for the name and place substituted. "His excellency the Minister of X met today with Mr. Y of Z in Place B. They held fruitful talks and each side hailed the other for their great effort and successes." Repeat that times 20, but with the names changed, and you get the idea of the bulletin news.
If the content of the news isn't exciting, the readers aren't much better. I used to feel sorry for these guys. They obviously had no interest in what they were reading, and would have the same monotonous voice for the whole bulletin. I also really don't know what is the criteria for picking commentators, is it try to find the least inept person available? I have never sat and watched a bulletin without at least one spelling or grammatical mistake. These are no Pulitzer-prize winners, I can assure you.
Furthermore, there is still no discussion whatsoever about local political developments. I have never heard "Al Wefaq" or "petition" mentioned in our news. and please, let us not get into locally produced bahraini entertainment shows. We have to wait one whole year until Ramadhan to see one measly sitcom that is pretty much similar to the one made in the year before.
And then you read from all these columnists wailing in the newspaper about the new level of mediocrity and lowness our youth have reached by watching things like Nancy Ajram and Big Brother. What else do you want them to watch? The hard-hitting Jeremy Paxman style debating shows we have on our beloved channel, or the witty and very humorous sit-coms that the Ministry of Information churns out every day which make shows like "The Office" blush? Maybe we should watch the very educating yet still entertaining local made documentaries that fill all of our channels.
To be fair to Bahrain TV though, the last time I watched it was to see a local football game, and that was a reaalllllyyy long time ago. I haven't watched them in a while (and I bet half of bahrain hasn't either), so maybe in the last few months they have completely changed and became an energetic, entertaining, thought-provoking channel. Does anyone know?
What can be done about this? It is hard to say, the situation is so depressing that nothing less than Caesarian surgery is needed. The most important thing, I think, is for the Ministry of Information to be disbanded. TV and radio needs to be freed from its clutches. Market forces have to start working on them, so that we can get more than one TV channel that reflect more than one viewpoint and is more responsive to what viewers want. Maybe the market will develop to where we have a leftist leaning channel (reflecting their viewpoints),and another one that is closer to the conservatives. If there is to be a state-owned channel, then it should try to be similar to the BBC: Independent but with interesting and thoughtful programmes.
Anyway, this is just a rant, and it is probably just as ludicrous as the media we have.