65 years on: 'Change as an opportunity' for DW Arabia | DW's press releases | DW | 11.04.2024
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65 years on: 'Change as an opportunity' for DW Arabia

DW's first radio address in Arabic was held in 1959. Since then, the Arabic program, now a multimedia offering, has been building bridges between Germany and the MENA region and is constantly reinventing itself.

In the beginning, there was radio – and DW Arabic began broadcasting on April 1, 1959 with a daily, initially 20-minute program consisting of news, reports, press reviews and commentaries. "This is the voice of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is addressing you for the first time in Arabic," announced the presenter, followed by a speech by Dr. Otto Wesemann, the Director General at the time. He explained DW's mission: "People can't understand each other if they don't know each other first. What you will hear in our Arabic service should be a reflection of reality. […] In this way, we would like to give you the opportunity to form your own opinion about our country and its position in relation to the Arab world." 

Within a year following the first broadcast, DW's Arabic program was expanded to a daily 45-minute slot; and for the Silver Jubilee in 1984, Deutsche Welle was already broadcasting three daily slots in Arabic with a total of 240 minutes of programming via short and medium wave in 21 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. 35 Arabic-speaking employees from Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco as well as German editors produced the content at the time.

Moderatorin Maissun Melhem mit Egon Bahr

Presented by Maissun Melhem and Ahmed Abida, the talk show "Guest of the Week" accompanied the Arab Spring. The guest here was Egon Bahr.

Accompanying the Arab Spring on TV 

After the September 11 attacks in the U.S. and the subsequent wars, DW took on the task of promoting dialogue between the two worlds and increased its media presence in the region. In 2002, DW-TV in Berlin opened an initial three-hour program window in Arabic via Nilesat – with subtitled news, magazines and talk shows. In 2004, DW-WORLD.DE turned to young multipliers with its Arabic page: Students, journalists, young politicians and activists. A year later, viewers were able to watch news presented in Arabic. 

When the Arab Spring protests broke out, the Arabic service accompanied them with a series of journalistic productions and thus became an important source of information and discussion platform for liberal, Western-oriented millennials in the Arab world. 

DW Director General Peter Limbourg: "DW Arabic stands not only for journalistic excellence, but also for better understanding between Germany, Europe and the Arab world."

An editorial team reinvents itself 

Since it was founded, the Arabic editorial team has grown enormously and has undergone some fundamental changes. The radio service in its traditional form has since been discontinued and new formats have emerged to reach Gen Z where they can be found: online and on social media. However, the young, digital-savvy society of the Middle East and North Africa region has remained loyal to the so-called "old" media: DW Arabia continues to reach people in the target region via linear television, through local partnerships and via radio. 

Jan Kuhlmann

Jan Kuhlmann, DW Head of Middle East

Jan Kuhlmann, DW Head of Middle East, sees this change as an opportunity: "We won't abandon established genres and methods, but we will have to develop them further and adapt them to on-demand production. Above all, I see this as an opportunity to reach far more people than has yet been possible." The Arabic-language program currently reaches 38 million weekly user contacts, making it one of the top 3 of DW's 32 language offerings. 

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EINSCHRÄNKUNG DW Personenfoto | Corporate Communications | Carla Hagemann

Carla Hagemann

Corporate Spokesperson and Head of Corporate Communications


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