Cat and mouse games over Mid-East channels
By Robert Briel
Published: July 2, 2010 11.32 Europe/London

According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the French media authority CSA, has instructed Eutelsat to remove several “inflammatory” Arab and Iranian TV channels from its satellites. Although Eutelsat carried out the instructions, most of the inciting channels have sometimes resurfaced on European satellites or satellites operated by non-European countries but which have some coverage of Europe – sometimes within a matter of hours.

Founded in February 1998 to inform the debate over US policy in the Middle East, MEMRI is an organisation with headquarters are in Washington, DC. The Institute monitors Middle East media and reports on them.

Only in one case (Al-Manar), the CSA was successful in having the broadcaster removed from satellite. In three more cases, concerning TVSahar-1 TV, Al-Rahma TV and Al-Aqsa TV, all “have all made a mockery of the decisions of the French authorities.” The Institute claims that Eutelsat carries out the CSA instructions to remove inciting channels, but then these channels return through the back door, under a different name, through a different mediator, or on another satellite.

French PM Raffarin’s declaration that Al-Manar TV’s broadcasts were “incompatible with French values” established the ethical grounds for the legal measures taken by the French authorities. Eutelsat, being a French company, falls under the jurisdiction of the CSA because the satellite’s signals (theoretically) reach Europe.

“The ball is now in the court of CSA,” according to MEMRI. The French regulator has too look at each case individually, because the involved Mid-East channels tend to not only change their name, but also (some of their) content, begging the question whether a new file needs to be opened or not.

The full text of the report can be found on the website of the Middle East Media Research Institute.