Though they may have landed the year’s biggest scoop by interviewing Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, Moscow’s government-backed TV station, Russia Today, has performed so poorly in the Middle East since its 2007 launch in Arabic that it is not even listed in regional television ratings. In fact, despite tens of millions of dollars in investments, most state-backed Arabic channels have failed miserably to attract Arab viewers.
The downward ratings trend applies to nearly all government-sponsored Arabic language news organizations created over the last decade, including glitzy offerings from Washington, Paris, London, Beijing and Tehran:
Of the few to actually be listed in ratings, France 24 recorded a marginal showing of 0.1 percent of viewers during 2011 in key markets such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon, according to figures obtained by Stat Ipsos. And this is despite the huge jump in TV viewers last year due to the wall-to-wall coverage of uprisings. Similarly, Washington’s cash-flushing Al Hurra recorded a mere 1 percent or less in the same markets, despite being on the air for a blistering near 10 years now and consuming untold millions of taxpayer dollars since.
The only noticeable gains have been recorded by BBC Arabic which nearly peaked at 3 percent of viewers in Egypt although it dipped to 0.5 percent in Lebanon, three years after its launch.
Here is a look at last year’s figures in detail, which were obtained during research for my piece last month on Murdoch’s Sky Arabia, which will be unveiled this year, despite the dismal market.
AVERAGE DAILY VIEWERSHIP*: KSA 2011
Al Arabiya: 28 percent Al Jazeera: 15 percent Al Akhbariya (Saudi state-owned): 5 percent BBC Arabic: 1 percent France 24 Arabic: 0.1 percent Al Hurra: 0 percent
Al Jazeera: 10.2 percent Al Arabiya: 9 percent BBC Arabic: 2.8 percent Al Hurra: 1 percent France 24 Arabic: 0.1 percent
Al Jazeera. 11.1 percent Al Arabiya: 9.6 percent Al Hurra: 1 percent BBC Arabic: 0.5 percent France 24 Arabic: 0.1 percent