Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet

Saad Hariri described the move as suspending work until the Future TV network could be re-launched after a financial restructuring. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

Lebanon’s Hariri pulls plug on ailing family TV outlet

  • Hariri said the decision to close the ailing TV network “is not easy for me or for the audience of the Future Movement”

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Wednesday that he will temporarily close a TV network owned by his family to allow for major financial restructuring.

The suspension of the Future TV network follows financial struggles stretching back years and recent strikes by employees over unpaid wages. Future TV was launched in 1993 by Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005.

Earlier this year, Hariri halted the print edition of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, also owned by his family, turning it into a digital newspaper.

The Lebanese leader, who heads the Future Movement political party, said that the decision to close the ailing TV network “is not easy for me or for the audience of the Future Movement, the generation of founders, workers and millions of Lebanese and Arab viewers, who have accompanied the station for more than a quarter of a century.”

The decision to suspend the TV station took Lebanon’s media and political sector by surprise. The station has struggled since the beginning of August when employees in the news and programs departments halted work in protest against nonpayment of wages. Since then it has broadcast only rerun programs.

FASTFACT

The Lebanese prime minister suspended the Future TV network following financial struggles stretching back years and recent strikes by employees over unpaid wages.

Imad Assi, the station’s editor-in-chief, told Arab News that a meeting on Thursday will determine “the shape of the next stage, whether the station will continue to broadcast ‘reruns’ or turn off its lights completely while waiting for restructuring and restarting.”

Hariri said that his father “wanted Future TV to highlight Lebanon’s diversity, coexistence and passion for culture, freedom, openness and joy.”

The station’s suspension “will allow it to address accumulated financial burdens and prepare for a new phase in the coming months, with a face that shines on Lebanon and the Arabs and with a new look that fits the taste of Lebanese men and women and their national, economic, social, and developmental interests,” he said.

Hariri apologized to workers at Future TV and Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, saying that “harsh conditions have forced us to take a difficult decision to suspend work,”and guaranteed that employee rights will be protected. The station has more than 300 employees and freelancers.

Aref Al-Abed, Future TV’s director of news and political programs in 1997 and 1998, said: “What has happened is a pity. A political media establishment has fallen. The station was a bastion of mutual coexistence, unlike other TV stations.”

The loss of the station will leave a major vacuum in Lebanon that will not be easy to fill, Al-Abed said.

“Future TV was more comprehensive (than other networks) since it employed people of all confessions and political affiliations,” he said.

Al-Abed said that the most difficult part of Hariri’s decision was the dismissal of hundreds of employees, some of whom had spent 26 years at the station, at a time when the media sector in Lebanon is in crisis.

The Lebanese leader’s announcement sparked a wave of reaction on social media. TV presenter Marcel Ghanem tweeted: “I salute Saad Hariri who was forced to take this action, hoping to see the TV station one more time with a new look.” 

Another presenter tweeted: “Hariri is ending a whole epoch
in history.”


Facebook’s Zuckerberg promises a review of content policies after backlash

Updated 06 June 2020

Facebook’s Zuckerberg promises a review of content policies after backlash

  • Trump's message contained the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts"

WASHINGTON: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said he would consider changes to the policy that led the company to leave up controversial posts by President Donald Trump during recent demonstrations protesting the death of an unarmed black man while in police custody, a partial concession to critics.
Zuckerberg did not promise specific policy changes in a Facebook post, days after staff members walked off the job, some claiming he kept finding new excuses not to challenge Trump.
"I know many of you think we should have labeled the President's posts in some way last week," Zuckerberg wrote, referring to his decision not to remove Trump's message containing the phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts."
"We're going to review our policies allowing discussion and threats of state use of force to see if there are any amendments we should adopt," he wrote. "We're going to review potential options for handling violating or partially-violating content aside from the binary leave-it-up or take-it-down decisions."
Zuckerberg said Facebook would be more transparent about its decision-making on whether to take down posts, review policies on posts that could cause voter suppression and would look to build software to advance racial justice, led by important lieutenants.
At a staff meeting earlier this week, employees questioned Zuckerberg's stance on Trump's post.
Zuckerberg, who holds a controlling stake in Facebook, has maintained that while he found Trump's comments "deeply offensive," they did not violate company policy against incitements to violence.
Facebook's policy is either to take down a post or leave it up, without any other options. Now, Zuckerberg said, other possibilities would be considered.
However, he added, "I worry that this approach has a risk of leading us to editorialize on content we don't like even if it doesn't violate our policies."