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Lebanon: Manar TV loses its edge



Hezbollah’s Manar TV is stuck in a rut. It gives away its scoops to other channels and limits its reporters’ social and political coverage. Is it possible to revive this once popular channel?

Four years have passed since Hezbollah’s Manar TV was last revamped. At the doorstep of the new year, there are no changes in store for its political programs or news broadcasts.

Despite the internal voices of protest that complain of the channel’s decline on the media and political scenes, it is as if the channel is in a coma state in terms of style and substance.

A source within the station told Al-Akhbar that the problem is not financial; there is simply an internal decision to keep the situation as is. Not to mention that Manar intentionally gives its scoops to other channels even though it is capable of claiming the top spots in ratings.

The channel’s image seems dull in both the news broadcasts and the political programs with only minor changes introduced. The reason for this is that one engineer has been in charge of the interior decoration for nearly 20 years. Although many from outside the station offered their services free of charge in this area, especially in lighting and screen layout, the channel’s management has not been responsive.

As for substance, the problem is worse. Even though the station has a team of professional reporters, the limits placed on politics and social issues paralyze them. Not to mention that there have been no new faces in the news studios.

In polls conducted soon after the 2009 parliamentary elections, Manar and al-Jadeed took first spots in television ratings. However, the political battle over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) – the court that handles the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri – that emerged the following year, turned Manar from a newsmaker to a news transmitter. The station played the role of spectator and failed to take initiative.

Things hit rock bottom when the STL indicted four Hezbollah members in the assassination in 2011. Manar stepped aside, abandoning its viewership and media advantage in favor of al-Jadeed. That became evident when Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah presented and explained in detail a document that exposed the smuggling of computers to Israel on al-Jadeed. This was the gift that kept on giving and al-Jadeed was happy to use Manar’s scoops to snatch the channel’s audience.

In short, the STL battle deprived Manar of its popular following, leaving the so-called Shia audience to be divvied up between al-Jadeed and LBCI (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International). Perhaps the death blow came when Manar did not broadcast the 2006 operation to capture the two Israeli soldiers. Instead, Manar gifted the scoop to al-Mayadeen last summer.

Inside Manar, there is a lot of resentment, but this does not translate into action on the ground. The same source told Al-Akhbar that two years ago, Manar signed an agreement with more than one channel that prevented its employees from working in any of those other institutions until a year had passed and they had obtained management’s approval.

As such, the channel lost employees like Abbas Nasser, Hakam Amhaz, Hussein and Farah Noureddine, and Abdallah Chamseddine. The source believes that those who left the station were perhaps lucky because they joined institutions that embraced their ambitions. Today, the employees left at Manar feel stifled.

The station that was borne from the Resistance in 1991 with the slogan “the Channel of Arabs and Muslims” used to represent a wide audience. Today, however, it is fast asleep and leaving the court open to its competitors. But for whose sake? And why? Only those in charge of Manar can answer this question. They promise that there will be changes in the institution in terms of style and substance in the coming year. Let’s wait and see.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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