A light in every home : Huda TV's articulation of Orthodox Sunni Islam in the global mediascape

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Maguire, Thomas E. R.

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The past two decades have witnessed a dramatic growth in Middle Eastern satellite television. The corresponding diversification of content and restructuring of media power in the region raise many important questions for research. This dissertation is a case study of Huda TV, an English-language Islamic satellite channel broadcasting from Cairo, Egypt. The author collected participant observation data as an employee of the channel in 2005-2006. The primary research question asks how Huda TV asserts an Islamic presence in the satellite television arena. Many areas of media research, including the broad historical debates on culture and power, contemporary conceptions of hybridity, and the analysis of media institutions in the Middle East, share an overarching secular bias. Consequently, this dissertation plots out relevant bodies of theoretical and empirical research that both inform and constrain the kind of questions that can be asked about Huda TV as a Muslim institution. With a conscious effort to overcome the reductionist secularism of media studies, this work offers empirical data on the manner in which orthodox Sunni Islam operates within the global mediascape--the increasingly integrated, geographically expansive, and globally accessible media environment of which satellite television is one important component. This dissertation first examines the concrete manner in which Huda TV attempts to define Islamic satellite television as a distinct set of content and practices. Next, it turns to the channel's engagement with dominant discourses and bodies of knowledge that may compete with Islam for ultimate authority. Finally, it examines the impact of cultural and political-economic factors on the channel's work. This dissertation offers original insights into the study of contemporary Islam and contributes to significant, enduring questions of media research.