The juiciest U.S. embassy cable leaked this week, from a media perspective, was this one, from the American embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Broadly, it describes the way American programming on Saudi-owned satellite broadcasters like MBC and Rotana is winning war of ideas in ways that American-funded Al Hurra never could.
But that’s not really news. The New York Times has done a fair amount of reporting on this, including a big profile of how popular Oprah, broadcast on top-rated MBC, is in Saudi Arabia. It’s only interesting that this unignorable cultural phenomenon was taken so seriously at the diplomatic level.
The newsiest nugget, Howard Kurtz rightly points out today, is the item revealing that Rupert Murdoch’s son had been in talks with the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, the country’s biggest publisher, about launching an Arabic-languge edition of the Wall Street Journal. Prince Waleed bin Talal, a part owner in News Corp, also owns about a third of SMPG. That Saudi publisher was also trying to score a contract to publish the International Herald Tribune.
The talks didn’t appear to go anywhere, and News Corp wouldn’t comment on them to Kurtz. But the May 2009 cable is useful as yet another piece of evidence of News Corp’s early interest in doing business in the Middle East at a time when other major media companies were dipping a tentative toe in, at best.
Read More: Politico
Photo credit: World Economic Forum (Creative Commons)