The majority Saudi-owned and Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) provides its subscribers in the Arab states with a large number of channels, including movies, music and other entertainment, but is best known for Al Arabiya, the 24-hour satellite news network. And it is Al Arabiya that was the chief target when saboteurs recently disrupted MBC programming. The operation, says an MBC press release, is the work of “an unknown source of perpetrators”— who just happened to go into action “when Al Arabiya’s viewership was at peak during its comprehensive coverage of the heated events in Libya.”
Arab media sources tell me they are confident that pro-Qaddafi forces are behind the disruption, probably using an “OB” (outside broadcasting) truck, like the ones used at major sports events, to interrupt MBC’s satellite frequencies and disrupt transmission in order to keep Al Arabiya from covering the conflict in Libya. Some Arab media executives explain that the regime in Tripoli has also targeted other broadcasters deemed to be "anti-Qaddafi."
Insofar as televised coverage of the Tunisian uprising inspired Egyptians, whose demonstrations in turn inspired others around the region to take to the streets, it’s already too late for Qaddafi to block the Al Jazeera (and Al Arabiya) effect. His media operation is not to keep his own citizens from rising up since they have already done so; rather, it is to keep the international community in the dark. The Obama administration has explained that it will not take action against Qaddafi until there is clear evidence that he is “massacring his own civilians.” And now Qaddafi’s blackout is making it easier for a White House reluctant to act to avoid doing so.