The Media War & the 2009 Lebanese Elections

01Feb09

With the parliamentary elections on the doorstep and political alliances being forged and broken, the relaunching of MTV seems to be part of the general preparations for the elections. Lebanese media usually reflect the political and sectarian divisions in the country, and MTV will add one more Christian voice to the scene, alongside the competing LBC and OTV.

With LBC concentrating on the regional market, while it is still going through a legal battle between current manager and owner Pierre Daher and Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea over the ownership of the channel, MTV is expected to carry the radical Christian discourse of the Lebanese Forces. And with OTV being the channel of Michel Aoun, who is in an alliance with Hezbollah, LBC might end up being in the middle, representing a more moderate, centrist political opinion.

The relaunching of MTV poses some questions regarding the future of LBC—not only because of the legal conflict, but also because of rumors that many of the channel’s stars, technicians and journalists who are close to the Lebanese Forces are leaving in order to join MTV.

The TV station will recover some of its old staff, such as Ghayath Yazbek, who will be the news director. Yazbek, who currently works at ANB, has said that MTV will resemble the French international station TV5 in terms of diversity and content.

While MTV was initially closed down because of its electioneering ads, it is now likely that the channel will relaunch as part of the electoral campaign of the Lebanese Forces. Geagea’s party lost LBC, its historical mouthpiece, due to the legal conflict with its current owner, and ever since his main opponent, Michel Aoun, launched his own mouthpiece, OTV, the Lebanese Forces have been looking for a new one of their own.

The Lebanese elections will be held in early June 2009. During the last elections in 2005, the media played a great role in fostering sectarian tension and each outlet acted like a propaganda machine for its affiliated candidates. This year, the question remains whether the Lebanese TV channels will live up to their role as monitors of the political process, or will keep their current roles as mouthpieces for the politicians who own them.

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