The political influence of Al-Jazeera network on Kuwaitis: A uses and gratifications study

Ali Abbas Jamal


Recently, Arabs began to have the opportunity of switching among hundreds of satellite television channels, an unprecedented phenomenon in the Arab world. Government broadcast media have historically been utilized as a propagandistic tool to legitimize political regimes and people had no choice but to watch few government television stations. Satellite media emerged to provide Kuwaitis different types of political contents that included diverse political views. This study provides a comparative analysis that examines motivations that urged Kuwaitis to watch Al-Jazeera, and whether those motivations differed from gratifications obtained from Kuwaiti television. This study tried to explore the political influence Al-Jazeera had on Kuwaitis by specifically examining the associations between motivations and time spent watching Al-Jazeera and interest in politics, frequency of voting, discussion of civic issues with people, trust in government, and political efficacy. Finally, this study looked at the factors that predicted watching Al-Jazeera and Kuwaiti television. The results of this study revealed that 82% of Kuwaitis watched Al-Jazeera, although some of them did not because they thought the network focused on negative news and issues about Kuwait and that it had a biased coverage. Two main types of factors urged Kuwaitis to watch Al-Jazeera: social and personal. Kuwaitis favored Al-Jazeera over Kuwaiti television for excitement, while they favored Kuwaiti television over Al-Jazeera for guidance, information, and services. Time spent watching television predicted time spent watching Al-Jazeera, while time spent watching television and trust in government predicted watching Kuwaiti television. Interest in politics was associated with excitement, service assessment, and seeking information motivations of watching Al-Jazeera. Time spent watching Al-Jazeera was associated with interest in politics and discussing civic issues with people. Trust in government was the only variable that was associated with time spent watching Kuwaiti television. Demographic variables were important in deciding what motivations led to watching Al-Jazeera and gratifications obtained from Kuwaiti television. Males, individuals with higher education level, those with higher income, and older individuals preferred Al-Jazeera over Kuwaiti television on all assessed motivations. Conversely, females, individuals with lower education level, those with lower income, and younger individuals received greater gratifications from Kuwaiti television than Al-Jazeera on all assessed gratifications.