The Muslim and Arab audience responses to new programming at Arab Television – Københavns Universitet

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The Muslim and Arab audience responses to new programming at Arab Television

The main objective for the research project is to examine how the television functions as a vehicle for the new Islamic public and the Arab population's engagement in Islamism and anti-Islamism. The overall objective is to gain more knowledge of the Arab and Muslim audience and its identification with or rejection of Islam and Islamism respectively. To accomplish this scope it is necessary to define more delimited project outlines, and at the same time make use of and gain knowledge through different analytical approaches and methods. Thus, I identify four interrelated research questions which deal with issues related to the rapid development of Arab television and to the audiences' responses to new types of programming. The main project I am to undertake is a qualitative and comparative study of audience responses in four different countries (e.g. Denmark, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia and Egypt). On the background of the special focus on the programming of Islam, a second and separate, but supportive, issue is on Islamic preachers' storytelling seen through the lenses of the audience response. A third and derived perspective will focus more explicitly on the Muslim and Arab Diaspora and their use of transnational media in identity construction with a special attention on the meaning of being in Diaspora. Last, and fourthly, I am looking into the questions of television as part of religious, political and cultural consumption. All four topics aim at giving answers to the questions concerning the interplay between Arab television, religious, political and cultural identity formation, hence being able to contribute to the general subject area.

As for the main project, the key issue is to gain new knowledge about the Arab and Muslim audience and how they make use of TV in its construction, negotiation, mediation, contestation and rejection of religious and anti-religious identities and practices. In order to get access to these identity constructions and practices, the research agenda is based on a qualitative and comparative in-depth study of a smaller group of television viewers. This approach raises a number of methodological questions of general interest for media and cultural studies, as well as questions related to media and identity formation. These methodological and theoretical questions will be discussed thoroughly through the study based on the premise that the basis for doing audience research is to understand the audience as not only a passive receiver of media messages, ideology and products. Rather, the audience responses do necessary include a first type of audience activity, namely an interpretive activity. The activity of interpretation is secondly deeply socially embedded, which introduces a second kind of audience activity, emphasizing the audiences' engagement with media in social settings during their consumption of media or by their sharing of interpretations and experiences with media in continuation of actual use. Both kinds of activities may be analysed as part of the audience identity formations through meaning constructions and through socially embedded cultural and religious identifications.

Dr. Ehab Galal holds a PhD and MA in Arab Media and Middle Eastern Studies from Copenhagen University. He has written on Arab and Islamic media. Much of his research has focused on the interaction between the TV-media and religious identity formation.