Media Use in the Middle East 2017

For a comprehensive assessment on what is happening in the media in the Middle East- online and traditional- check out this survey by Northwestern University in Qatar. The findings are enlightening, especially the differences between the Arab countries.

I’ve put the executive summary below. For those who want to read the report more fully go to

Below are the key findings from this study, which are explored in detail in the chapters that follow.

Media Use by Platform

Compared to five years ago, internet penetration rose in all six countries surveyed and most dramatically in Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia.

Smartphone ownership tracks closely with internet use in the six surveyed countries. Nearly all nationals in Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE own a smartphone compared with 83% of Jordanians and 65% of Tunisians.

Use of Arabic online has increased proportionally with the increase in internet users. In comparison, use of the internet in English remains essentially flat, 25% in 2013 and 28% in 2017, despite the increase in internet use.

As internet penetration rises, nationals are less likely to be using offline media platforms compared with 2013. Most nationals still watch TV, but the rate declined modestly since 2013 (98% in 2013 vs. 93% in 2017). Rates of newspaper readership, however, declined more sharply from 47% in 2013 to 25% in 2017. Radio and magazines also declined in popularity since 2013 (radio: 59% in 2013 vs. 49% in 2017; magazines: 26% in 2013 vs. 19% in 2017).

News Consumption

Digital news consumption across the Arab region is high and growing. Over three-quarters of nationals get news on their phones and two-thirds do so at least once a day (77% at all, 67% daily). Using smartphones for daily news checks is second only to accessing news on TV (78% TV).

In Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia, nationals get news more frequently from TV than online sources, while larger proportions of Qataris, Saudis, and Emiratis turn to the internet more than TV for news.

Nationals hesitate to pay for news content

Majorities in Jordan (74%), Lebanon (75%), Qatar (71%), and Tunisia (61%) are unwilling to pay for any news, be it digital, TV, newspapers, or magazines. Since 2015, their willingness to pay for content dropped by 27 percentage points in Lebanon to just 23% and by 47 points in Qatar to only 24%.

When asked about their favorite news organization, majorities of nationals in every nation except Saudi Arabia prefer a news organization based in their home country (62% regional average vs. 38% KSA).

Internet Use

Time spent online correlates positively with the number of years using the internet. Nationals new to the internet (1 year) spend about eight hours a week online. This jumps to 14 hours per week for those who have spent two years using the internet and again rises to about 21 hours per week among those who have been online between three to seven years. Those with 10 or more years of internet experience spend about 29 hours per week online.

Since 2015, the percentage of nationals using smartphones to connect to the internet rose by 13 percentage points, while the percentage using laptops or computers fell by 11 percentage points.

Nearly one in four nationals say the internet increases their contact with people who hold political and religious beliefs different from their own (23% different political beliefs, 24% different religious beliefs). More highly educated internet users (secondary education or higher) are twice as likely as those with the least education (primary or less) to engage online with people who have different viewpoints on religion and politics.

 Social Media

WhatsApp tops the list of social media used by nationals across the region with two-thirds of nationals using it, compared to a marginally lower rate for Facebook and only one-half using YouTube (67% WhatsApp, 63% Facebook, 50% YouTube).

While stable in Lebanon, Facebook penetration declined across all other countries by at least 10 percentage points since 2015, with the most dramatic declines of over 20 percentage points in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to 22% in Qatar and 55% in Saudi Arabia.

The broadest trust among nationals for complete, accurate, and fair news coverage is for both mass media in general and for mass media in their own country—two-thirds trust these sources—while about half trust other mass media in the Arab world, media from Western countries, or social media (66% trust mass media in general, 66% mass media in their own country vs. 52% mass media in the Arab world outside their country, 49% mass media in Western countries, 47% social media).

 Currently, group chats and messages between individuals evenly split all direct messages sent and received at 50% each. This represents a significant increase in group messaging of 15 to 42 percentage points in all countries except Qatar where the portion of nationals using group messaging decreased since 2015 (by 14 percentage points) to one-third of all direct messaging.


Nearly three-quarters of internet users across the region use Wi-Fi or mobile data services to connect to the internet. However, Wi-Fi use varies by country from less than half of Jordanians to two-thirds of Tunisians and nine in ten across the other nations (40% Jordan vs. 63% Tunisia, 91% Lebanon, 87% Qatar, 84% KSA, 97% UAE).

 Nationals who get news via smartphone at least once a day are also more likely to get news via other platforms—both digital and offline—on a daily basis.

 Just over half of nationals use news apps and just over one-quarter use them daily. Using news apps is most popular in Saudi Arabia and the UAE and least popular in Qatar (use at all: 85% KSA, 86% UAE vs. 52% Jordan, 49% Tunisia, 42% Lebanon, 33% Qatar).

Free Speech

Three times as many nationals think people should be able to publicly criticize the government’s policies than should be allowed to make offensive statements about one’s religion and beliefs or about minorities.

 Two-thirds of Lebanese support the right to publicly criticize government policies and just one-third say the government has the right to prevent such critiques. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and especially the UAE represent the opposite end of the spectrum, with about one-quarter of Qataris and Saudis and only 14% of Emiratis believing people should have the freedom to criticize government policies.

Across the region, those with the lowest education (primary or less) are the least likely to agree people should be able to express unpopular ideas, criticize government, or speak their minds about politics online—by about 20 percentage points compared to those with more education.


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Wednesday, 17 August 2022