Al Jazeera America received a major boost this week in its controversial attempt to build a U.S. audience. But the Qatar-based news station, whose channel will now be carried by Time Warner Cable, is not the only Middle East satellite giant coming to penetrate the market.
Soon the Arab world's top Christian broadcaster, SAT-7, will also start reaching into American homes.
Unlike Al Jazeera, which aims to reach 48 million U.S. homes, 17-year-veteran SAT-7 is aiming for only four million. This is the estimated number of Arabs in the United States and Canada.
"Since the start of the Arab uprisings in 2011, there has been an acceleration in the number of Arabs—especially Christian Arabs—leaving their homelands for North America," Terry Ascott, SAT-7's founder and CEO, told CT. "Launching now is a response to the growing number of people who are leaving and want to stay in touch with home."
On November 3, they will finally be able. SAT-7 North America will provide the familiar theological education, leadership training, health and lifestyle issues, and coverage of Middle East current events that Arab Christians have left behind.
"We have been praying for this for many years," Sharif Wahba, SAT-7 senior producer in Egypt, told CT. "We hope it will help the Middle Eastern community over there."
Wahba explained that most initial programming will rely on the Arabic SAT-7 feed. Ascott emphasized that contrary to al-Jazeera's intentions to enter the mainstream English language market, the channel's service is for Arab-Americans, and primarily in Arabic.
"The percent of programs made especially for the channel will be somewhat limited," he said, "but this is expected to grow as North American based producers become more actively engaged. ... The interaction that SAT-7 North America viewers will have with Middle East and North Africa Christians is unprecedented."
The underlying statistics may surprise many Americans. A 2002 Zogby survey found that Muslims compose less than a quarter of all Arab-Americans. The Arab-American Museum, based in Dearborn, Michigan, estimates 65 to 70 percent of this community is Christian.
CT previously examined SAT-7's debut and expansion, including its Lebanon station. CT also examined how most Arab Americans are Christians, and how Christian satellite broadcasters should evangelize Muslims.
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