The Lebanese Media
By Sally Farhat
Lebanese scholar Sarah El-Richani discussed her newly published book “The Lebanese Media – Anatomy of a System in Perpetual Crisis” at a book launch event hosted by the Centre for Lebanese Studies and the Department of Communication Arts at the Lebanese American University on January 25, 2107.
El-Richani, who holds a doctorate degree in International Communication and Comparative Media Studies from the University of Erfurt in Germany, is a visiting fellow at the Centre for Lebanese Studies in St. Antony’s College at University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
El-Richani introduced her book as research that probes “the Lebanese media system as a whole using a very renowned theoretic framework developed by Hallin and Mancini.”
To illustrate, El-Richani presented the four dimensions Daniel Hallin and Paolo Mancini developed in their book “Comparing Media Systems” to assess the state of the media in a country, stressing the importance of adapting them locally. These dimensions are the role of the state, development of the media market, political parallelism, and professionalization.
Regardless of some questionable aspects she believes relate to Hallin and Mancini’s models, El-Richani considers the latter the most “formidable frameworks for comparing political media.”
El-Richani also delineated her understanding of the Lebanese media system as a product of a pluralistic, confessional, and democratically oriented state, highlighting the significant impact a weak state such as the Lebanese one has on the media system.
El-Richani’s contribution to the field of Lebanese studies comes in the form of a hybrid model she developed, one that better fits the Lebanese media system. Combining the uniqueness of the Lebanese media with Hallin and Mancini’s Polarized Pluralist Model, El-Richani’s book proposes an amended model, which she labels the CriSPP Model, referring to the conflict prone, small state aspects of the Lebanese media in the Polarized Pluralist Model.
In presenting her model, El-Richani further emphasized the importance of the sociopolitical context of the country in relation to its media system, mainly reiterating the main thesis of “Four Theories of the Press,” a book Fred Siebert, Theodore Peterson, and Wilbur Schramm wrote in 1956 to assess the state of the press.
“Around the world the media system often reflects the political system [and] the development of the state,” explained El Richani. “There is almost a parallel between the development of the state and the development of the media.”
The event also included a Q&A session, in which El-Richani and attendees interacted as they discussed the state of the Lebanese media as well as opportunities for students to work in the local media.