The Fourth Annual BIMA Conference
At the Lebanese American University
Media and the Transformations of Arab Societies
March 16-18, 2004
Orientalism and the Media: The Case of the BBC
Mazin S. Motabagani
Associate Professor Orientalistics
Al-Madinah Center for the Study of Orientalism
Many intellectuals think that Orientalists are mere scholars living in their ivory towers and have no real relation to the living world. This may be because most Orientalists either worked for certain governments as agents or experts, or were academics working in different institutions or unviversities.Though their presence in the media is very limited but, when we study this deeply we find that many of the Orientalists took their knowledge to the Media whether it was journalism, Radio, television and now the internet.
To study this phenomenon of the relationship between Orientalism and the media deserves to be tackled by many scholars and would need much more than just a short paper to be presented to this conference. So this paper will take the BBC as a case study hoping to continue the research in this field.
After the First World War many European countries have established radio stations directed to the Arab and Muslim World. Along with these radio stations magazines and newspapers dealt with topics that can be classified as Orientalism. To take but one example the BBC which was established in 1922 has started its Arabic section in 1938 with a clear agenda. The BBC started its magazine "Al-Mustamie Al Arabi" for many years. Then another magazine came out to support the audio services of the BBC which was "Huna London" Now this radio station has a magazine called "Al-Mushahid Assiasy". Just before the 2ed. World war some prominent Orientalists have written to the magazine such as H.A.R. Gibb, Bernard Lewis, Arbery, Joseph Sacht and others.
Since then the media whether it be written, audio, audio visual or internet have given Orientalists and Middle East specialists' ample space to participate in the major programs or main pages of the media. In France for examples the major French Newspapers and magazines dealt with issues relating to the colonized countries and particularly to Islamic countries. In Algeria for example the reformist movement devoted much space in its magazines to refute some of the writings appeared in French newspapers such "Le Temps" or "L' observitoir" One of the BBC famous programs is " Politics Q&A" or "Assiasa bain Assael wa Al mujeeb" was mostly answered by Orientalists and Middle East specialists.
The BBC has been studied as a directed radio station from communication point of view. Some of these studies were masters or PhD theses (). However this may be the first study of BBC and its relations with Orientalism. It was rather difficult to find all the volumes of the first publication of the BBC "al-Mustame Al Arabi". The university library of Muhammad Ben Saud University has only few of these volumes.() Here we will devote this paper to the BBC since the beginning in 1938 and its magazines mentioned above. The paper will be divided into three sections:
· The first part will be devoted to give a historical background to the relations between Orientalism and the media.
· The second part The BBC and Orientalism where will survey
some of the major names in Orientalism and also major topics that are of interest to them.
· The third part : an examination of some of the material published in these magazines and apply content analysis on them.
Historical Background: The Media and Orientalism
This relation with the Media may have be traced back to the beginning of Journalism, but what is important to us in this paper that during the period Algeria was colonized by France many French Scholars wrote about Algeria and Islam. In the first years of the Twentieth Century the leading French Newspaper put forward a question about the future of the Muslim World to a number of leading Orientalists.
When the Second World War broke out, the Allies and the Axis competed in their propaganda and directed their media towards the Arab World and this was the main cause behind the creation of the BBC directed programs towards the Arab World.
The relationship between Orientalism and the media continued through countless number of magazines and newspapers. Just to name a few we mention the following: The Atlantic Monthly, Commentary, New Republic, La Figaro, New York Review of Books, The Newsweek, the Times, Los Angeles Times …etc. Some weekly political magazines issued published special issues on the topic of “ Islamic Fundamentalism’ – for example. Even some magazines which were not known to deal with controversial topics or politics per se such as the Readers' Digest indulged in the topic or "Islamic fundamentalism" or "radicalism ".
Orientalists were attracted by radio and TV. As early as the late nineteen fifties Bernard Lewis was dispatched by the British government to speak to radio and TV stations, newspapers and magazines in addition to giving lectures at some public places.
As for radio the BBC broadcasting started in 1938 where Orientalists were given great importance to speak in the radio. Bernard Lewis presented a program of many episodes about the British contribution in the Arabic and Islamic Studies. Then the station invited another famous Orientalist Arbery to talk on almost the same topic.
Nowadays the TV news or other political programs do host many Orientalists, Middle East specialists, Arabists or Islamists to present their views on the currant issues in the Arab or Muslim World. I can site some examples such as Bernard Lewis, John Esposito, Judith Tucker, Daniel Pipes, and others.
The Cinema industry also were affected by Orientalism or promoted many of the stereotyping of the Orientalism. Or Orientalism was the source for the writers or producers in the Cinema. The case of the Walt Disney movies and the negative stereotyping of Arabs and Muslims is well known.
And If we turn to the Internet, we would find tens of thousands of pages and sites run by Orientalists and devoted to the spreading the ideas of Orientalism. Some of these sites are run by Middle Eastern Studies departments or research centers or institutes. Some are run by individual Orientalists or their students.
The BBC and Orientalism
The BBC started its broadcasting on almost on the same wave length of Radio Bari station in 1938. The first aim was to combat the propaganda of the Axis war propaganda.() Then the aims developed into more deep aims such as spreading the cultural values of Britain and the West in general. Some programs are devoted to teaching English.
Some researchers go beyond these goals to state that the stations were meant to portray Islam as a backward religion and misrepresent Muslims. () Some would add to these aims is to improve the relationships with the Arab world after the grave role of Britain in creating the Zionist regime in Palestine. () The radio station program was divided into four categories: political, literary and cultural, songs and music and finally scientific programs. ()
Since the Station was established for political purposes so politics was given ample time. One of the most popular programs was:" Politics Q and A. or in Arabic "Assiyasah bayn Assael Wa Almujeeb" This program depended mainly on the questions sent to the station from listeners from allover the Arab World. But at times question were faked to publicize the point view of the station. ()
Answers to the question in this program were given by either editors in the station itself or editors of some British newspapers or magazines or some of the Orientalists (or Middle East specialist) I have found that some questions seem to be faked in order that the station spreads the views it holds on a certain topic. In one episode of this same program a question was asked about Sudan and the application of Islamic Law and whether the motto (Islam is the solution) is a practical one or just an empty slogan?()
The Orientalists were recruited to participate in the cultural, political and scientific programs. Their participation appeared in the different publications. I will give here few examples of these participations:
1-Joseph Sacht," Saudi Arabia and the art of Printing" Vol. 5 no. 18 (special issue on Saudi Arabia.)
2-Cratchofisky. " Arabic Studies in the Soviet Union" Vol. 5, No. 12
3-Joseph Sacht. "British Travelers in Arab Land in the 19th. Century". Vol. 5 No. 14.
4-" Orientalism and Occidentalism" Vol. 5, No. 2.
5- “Mary Ziyadah” by Joseph Sacht. Vo. 5, no.6
6- “The Arab philosopher Ibn Bajah” by the English Orientalst D. M Dunloup. Vol.5, no. 7
 - Sami Ashsharif . An Analytical Comparative study of the Political programs of Both the BBC and Voice of America.(Unpublished M.A Theses.) Also see Maji Halawani, Introduction to the Directed Radio Stations.( Cairo: Dar Alfikr Al-Arabi) 1982
 - This paper is hoped to be a first search on this topic which I propose to become a Ph.D these.
 - جيهان أحمد رشتي. الإعلام الدولي بالراديو التلفزيون. (القاهرة:دار الفكر العربي، 1979) ص 19
 -محسن محمد علي عطية. بعض قضايا المسلمين والمسيحيين في إذاعة لندن: دراسة تطبيقية على برامج الأخبار والأحاديث من 12/11/1406جتى 12/ 12/1406 ( بحث تكميلي للحصول على الماجستير من قسم الإعلام بالمعهد العالي للدعوة الإسلامية بالمدينة المنورة) بحث غير منشور.
 -ياسر الفهد. بين الثقافة والصحافة:دراسات ف التطوير الثقافي. ص 99
 - عطية. مرجع سابق.
 - Attiyah, op.cit.,