Mass media and society : the six normative theories and the role of social, political and economic forces in shaping media institutions and content : Saudi Arabia : a case study
This is a study of the media of mass communication in Saudi Arabia in relation to the social, political, economic and cultural features of Saudi Arabian society. It takes as its starting point the idea of "normative" theories of the press as originally formulated by Siebert and his Colleagues in 1956 and extended by McQuail in 1983. These authors saw the media systems of different countries as approximating to one of four (later six) ideal types, each represented by a different media theory, which in turn derives from the political and economic characteristics of the country in question. Siebert classified the Saudi Arabian media as conforming to his Authoritarian theory of the media. An important objective of the present research was to assess the adequacy and accuracy of this classification particularly in the light of the later formulated "Development Media Theory" (something which was in itself to be critically examined in the context of historically changing conceptions of development). The history of the Arabian peninsula is traced and Saudi Arabia's political, economic and social structures are examined in detail in order to show how these factors influence the nature of the Saudi media. The development, functioning and content of the media are described, and a case study of one press establishment is offered in illustration. Saudi media policy and the laws and regulations governing the media are explained with reference to official documents. This analysis leads to the conclusions that the Saudi Arabian media system does indeed display a number of Authoritarian features. However it is argued that as an aid to understanding such a classification as Siebert's is far from helpful, omitting as it does any analysis of the particular derivation of these features from Saudi Arabia's Islamic Theocracy and their relevance to the pace and form of Saudi development. The final section of this study attempts to expand this argument integrating the roles played by Saudi Arabia's cultural and religious history and current developmental state, to present a more detailed classification of the Saudi media.