NU-Q Media Use findings reveal changing attitudes in Middle East
May 15 2019 01:30 AM

Northwestern University in Qatar’s sixth annual Media Use in the Middle East survey has found that a majority of nationals in most of the countries surveyed generally support online freedom of expression and there has been an increase in the percentage of nationals who feel that film and TV content from the US/Hollywood is good for morality.
“NU-Q’s Media Use in the Middle East 2018: A Seven-Nation Survey is a comprehensive resource for scholars as well as business, government and other thought leaders seeking to better understand and engage with the region,” said Everette E Dennis, dean and CEO of NU-Q.
“Since 2013, NU-Q has selected six to eight countries to approximate a reasonable representation of public opinion on media use and related topics in a turbulent and complex region. Six years of feedback suggests that our research has generated useful and discerning findings.”
The participating countries, including Qatar, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon and others — represent a cultural and geopolitical cross-section of the Mena region.
The 155-page report, published in English and Arabic, offers chapters covering cultural attitudes, censorship and digital privacy, media use by platform, online and social media, film, TV, music and podcasts, games, sports, and news, as well as one section focusing just on Qatar.
In addition to charts and summaries, the report  features guest commentary from experts such as the University of Maryland’s Shibley Telhami, Rice University’s Kristian Ulrichsen, Al Jazeera English’s Leah Harding, Doha Film Institute’s Fatma al-Remaihi, the Annenberg School for Communication’s Marwan M Kraidy, Al-Fanar Media’s Ursula Lindsey, the University of Essex’s Fatima el Issawi, Georgetown University in Qatar’s Mohamed Zayani and Mehran Kamrava, and NU-Q’s Eric Espig and Craig LaMay.
Key findings from the report include:
* Cultural attitudes: fewer nationals now, compared to 2014, say films and TV content from the Arab region are good for morality, while more nationals say such content from the US/Hollywood is good for morality.
* Censorship & digital privacy: a majority of nationals in most countries support online freedom of expression generally; yet, a minority of nationals in three countries say people should be free to criticise governments online, whereas a majority of nationals only in two countries say the same.
* Media use by platform: more nationals in 2018 than in 2016 say they paid for online music, sports or film content in the past year, though the figures for each are below 10%.  
* Online & social media: Facebook penetration continues to fall among nationals in all countries. In 2013, 88% or more of Internet users in these Arab countries used Facebook. In 2018, three countries reported Facebook penetration rates lower than 50%, including just 9% in Qatar, the lowest known figure in any high-income country. In addition, Twitter penetration in Arab countries has plummeted dramatically.
* Film: the percentage of nationals who watch films in a cinema has increased in several countries since 2014, including Qatar and Tunisia.
* TV: the percentage of nationals who watch TV every day fell from 69% to 54% between 2014 and 2018. Binge-watching TV/online content is reported by significantly more nationals now than in 2016, having increased from 32% to 40%. This compares to 76% of people in the US who binge-watch content.
* Music & podcasts: podcasts are popular among Arab nationals, with 30% of both Qataris and Tunisians listening to podcasts. 
* Games: roughly the same percentage of nationals plays video games now as did in 2014, but many who play are devoting more time to it. Qatari gamers, for example, spent an average of nine hours each week playing games in 2014, a number that increased 45% by 2018, to 13 hours. Lebanese gamers report a 55% increase in time spent playing.
* Sports: more Arab nationals in 2018 than 2014 list sports as a favourite genre of TV and online video. In five countries, including 2022 FIFA World Cup host Qatar, more nationals prefer to watch a sporting event on TV/online rather than attend the same event.
* News: seven in 10 or more of nationals in three countries say they often or sometimes encounter political news items online that appear entirely fake (Qataris, Lebanese, etc), which is equal to or more than the number of US residents who say the same.
The sixth annual media use survey was conducted face-to-face (phone in Qatar) among 7,635 respondents across seven countries. The survey was conducted by
The Harris Poll from July 10 to December 30, 2018.
The complete results of NU-Q’s sixth annual Middle East media use survey are also available on the interactive website,

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