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Over the last few days the country has been gripped by the slow drip of information coming out regarding a deal for the release of Gilad Schalit.
It has become increasingly clear that one news source in particular is suspiciously more informed than all the others. As highlighted earlier this week by The Jerusalem Post, Fox News, owned by America's Fox News Group, and created by Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has been constantly leading both the international and local media on all matters Gilad Schalit.
The sheer number of Fox's original reports on the Schalit deal, as well as the content of its reports, has been suspect, to say the least. When asked by the Post about the source of the Schalit reports, the Fox bureau in Jerusalem responded, "We don't talk about that."
It's no big secret that in the US the self-proclaimed "fair and balanced" Fox is proudly right-wing and quite pro-Israel. However, why Fox, of all media outlets, has become the go-to source for the local media may lie more in Israeli media policies than anything else.
In 1966, Israeli media representatives signed a censorship agreement with the IDF in which the various media outlets committed to abide by the stipulations set forth by the military censor. The agreement highlighted three main points: The function of the censor is to prevent the publication and release of sensitive security information that could harm Israel's national security; there can be no censorship of opinions or political issues; and the military censor is responsible for informing the media on which issues demand censor approval, although the censor reserves the right to change the list.
The agreement was amended later in the 1990s to include foreign journalists working in Israel, and to relax the terms slightly by allowing the media to report (almost) anything being reported by foreign news sources not subject to the agreement. It is this particular nuance which begs the question: Is the government leaking information to Fox News to bypass the censor?
An examination of the specific stories Fox News has been breaking - the split among the seven ministers in the inner cabinet, reports that negotiator Hagai Hadas threatened to resign if the inner cabinet rejected the proposal, and increasing Israeli frustration with the German mediator seemingly favoring Hamas - all suggest that if the government is responsible for leaking to Fox (something the Prime Minister's Office vehemently denies), the government is executing a psychological tactic to pressure Hamas and the Germans to concede to its demands on the deal.
Turkey Competes for Arab Approval
Over the next few weeks, the Turkish government has plans to launch its own Arabic-language satellite TV station in an effort to connect with the Arab world. The decision was facilitated by a recent piece of legislation allowing Turkey to broadcast in languages other than Turkish, which was prohibited until now.
As Turkey's bid for entry into the European Union remains a point of contention, this move to play a greater role in the Arab world signals a tactical shift for Turkey's public diplomacy strategy. Prof. Philip Seib, director of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and author of New Media and the New Middle East, suggests that, "by exercising more leadership in this way, Turkey presumably enhances its stature in European eyes, helping its case for EU membership."
The last 15 years have seen a rise in the use of satellite media technology in the Middle East, with countries in the region jockeying for leadership in the field. The Qatari government-owned Al-Jazeera network has enjoyed enormous success throughout the Arab and Muslim world, expanding its reach to include English broadcasts to the Western world. Saudi Arabia's Al-Arabiya has successfully emulated the Al-Jazeera model, and despite its controversial funding base, has provided stiff competition for its Qatari rival.
Where Qatar and Saudi Arabia have a clear interest in broadcasting within the region, it will be interesting to see how Turkey will be received among Arab populations. "Noteworthy," said Seib, "is that the Arab world is being courted by two non-Arab Muslim states - Turkey and Iran - and this contest for influence will be fascinating to watch."
Considering Turkey's broadcasts last month of the inflammatory anti-Israel series Ayrilik, the question becomes, does contending for a place among Arab TV networks and competing for ratings in the Arab world mean more anti-Israel programming?
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