Middle East

Saudi Arabia profile - Media

Man walks past newspaper stand in Saudi Arabia
Image caption Saudi Arabia maintains tight control over the media

Saudi investors are major players in the pan-Arab TV industry, but the country has one of the region's most tightly-controlled media environments.

Criticism of the government and royal family and the questioning of Islamic tenets are not generally tolerated. Self-censorship is pervasive.

The state-run Broadcasting Service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (BSKSA) operates almost all domestic broadcasting outlets. The minister of culture and information chairs the body which oversees radio and TV.

Major market

Private TVs cannot operate from Saudi soil, but the country is a major market for pan-Arab satellite and pay-TV. Saudi investors are behind UAE-based TV giants MBC and OSN.

Saudi tycoon Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns the Rotana media empire and in 2011 acquired a $300m stake in Twitter.

Newspapers are created by royal decree. There are more than a dozen dailies. Pan-Arab papers, subject to censorship, are available. On sensitive stories, newspapers tend to follow the editorial lead of the state news agency.

There were 20.8 million internet users by 2016 (Internetlivestats.com). The authorities openly acknowledge that widespread filtering takes place. It targets "pornographic", Islam-related, human rights and political sites.

The press law applies to all forms of electronic publishing.

Social media

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest social media markets in the Middle East. The popularity of social media has been boosted by the high rate of smartphone ownership.

With 2.4 million users, Saudi Arabia is home to more than 40% of all active Twitter users in the Arab region, says the Dubai School of Government (2014). Among the top Twitter users are clerics and members of the royal family.

The country accounts for 10 per cent of all Facebook users in the Arab region.

Saudi Arabia has the highest per-capita YouTube use of any country in the world.

The press

Television

  • Saudi TV - state-run, operates four networks, including news network Al-Ikhbariya

Radio

News agency/internet