Nearly all Arab states maintain terrestrial broadcasting monopolies (Iraq and Lebanon being the exceptions). By and large, however, the Arab public has exercised technology's gift of choice to leave the dowdy old state channels in the lurch. Sniffing this wind, many of the region's ubiquitous ministries of information have launched their own satellite channels. The Egyptian government's mammoth media organ, for example, boasts no fewer than 25. Satellite competition has also persuaded state broadcasters to offer flashier graphics, more field reporting and coverage of leaders that is less adulatory.The most important point here is that an Arab can now properly see how other Arabs live. Instead of the state controlling his perceptions of the outside world now he does.
None of this, however, can contain the impact on Arab media consumers of an ever-widening range of choice. It is one thing to learn of different, perhaps attractive, lifestyles in foreign cultures by way of Hollywood movies; it is quite another to see them being practised next door. Even the most purdahed of Saudi women are liable to observe that driving cars, forbidden to them, is quite normal for their sisters not only in distant, decadent America, but also in nearby Kuwait or Dubai. Syrians or Egyptians can see that real elections take place not just in rich Christian Europe, but in neighbouring Palestine and Iraq. Such innovations are no longer perhaps just for people “like them”, but for people “like us”.
In the long run this can only be a good thing. Every election will drive calls for another election. And no matter how illegitimate an election may be, it will still drive calls for improvement. Each Arab country will now influence the others due to the personal interactions of their people.
And no longer can a tyrant claim that democracy is only for "them". That era ended years ago. And for the Arab world... it won't be coming back.