Similarly to the press, the TV landscape reflects the political and sectarian division of the Iraqi society.
Baghdad is a channel that deals mainly with Sunni-majority regions, being funded by the Iraqi Islamic Party. In 2007, after mourning the death of Saddam, its studies were temporarily shut down by the Iraqi authorities. The Baghdad schedule is obviously dominated by Islamic themes
Among Shia political forces, the ISCI controls three channels: Al-Furat in Baghdad, Al-Nahrayn in al-Kut, both satellite stations, and the terrestrial Al-Ghadir in Najaf. The main station, Al-Furat, offers a rich selection of Shia religious programs. In its shows, even the most common difficulties faced by young Iraqis, such as wedding expenses, become a pretext to promote the financial benefits made available by ISCI to its voters.
Al-Iraqiya is part of state-funded IMN, just like the As-Sabah newspaper. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Baathist regime, this terrestrial station initially maintained its primacy over the national share, as Iraqis possessed no satellite dishes, but their rapid diffusion meant he had to compete soon with the independent Ash-Sharqiya. In one recent survey on the channels watched nationwide in a single week (Gallup-BBG 2014), the three most popular TV stations emerged to be Al-Iraqiya (68.8 percent of the respondents), followed by two independent platforms, Ash-Sharqiya (65.2 percent) and As-Sumaria (58.1 percent).
Similarly to As-Sabah, Al-Iraqiya came to be perceived by its detractors first as the CPA mouthpiece and then as the puppet of the Shia-dominated cabinets. Being a public broadcaster that should address all Iraqis, the paradox of the extensive space reserved to Shia Islamic programs cannot go unnoticed.
Ash-Sharqiya was founded by millionaire Saad al-Bazzaz. In 2007, the channel was forced to shut down and move to Dubai because of its allegedly "sectarian" coverage of the death of Saddam Hussein. Consequently, Ash-Sharqiya's critics consider it a pro-Sunni broadcaster.
Another popular independent station is Al-Fayhaa. It started broadcasting from Dubai, but in 2006 it resettled in Sulaymania, in the Kurdish autonomous region. Despite a dramatically polarised political environment, the channel's schedule also features contents that are intentionally conceived to defuse tensions between Kurds and Arabs in the contested regions. Furthermore, Al-Fayhaa targets Kurds and Arabs in both languages.
Al-Baghdadia is based in Cairo and was founded by Aoun Hussein al-Khashlok, a businessman of Nasiriya who is sometimes described as a former Baathist that enriched himself in a suspicious way. What is certain is that Al-Baghdadia maintains a sharp and irreverent approach to Iraqi politicians, as well as a secular consciousness which is particularly critical of political Islam.
As-Sumaria is located in Beirut and it distinguishes itself for one of the most objective conduct in the Iraqi TV landscape. The channel refrains from using emotional and politically charged terminology, referring to fallen security members as "dead" (qutla) and not as "martyrs" (shuhada), while using the term "armed men" (musallahun) for those branded as "terrorists" (irhabiyyun) on other channels.
Lastly, Ad-Diyar is a terrestrial television that was inaugurated in 2004; the director is the former head of Baathist radio and television, Faysal al-Yasiri. Recently, as a result of economic problems, Yasiri attempted to sell the channel to former Iraqi PM Ayyad Allawi, before opting for the support of one of Maliki's trusted businessmen, Usam al-Asadi. Another confirmation of how difficult it is for independent outlets to stay afloat without political donors.
Editorially, it is worth noting that independent channels like Ad-Diyar and As-Sumaria rarely show live images of the aftermath of suicidal attacks, demonstrating a greater interest for social issues and entertainment programs. The latter include satirical shows and the horoscope, which is sometimes condemned as an un-Islamic content.
In order to produce entertainment shows, more formats are imported from abroad, including foreign TV series (musalsalat). Some of the most popular stories feature nonconformist traits and draw on present anti-heroes, such as Ash-Sharqiya's famous series Dhi'ab al-Layl (Night Wolves), which narrates the deeds of a group of Iraqi kidnappers. In other cases, the musalsalat are designed to exorcise collective Iraqi traumas, like in the case of Al-Maz, a series broadcasted by As-Sumaria and set in one of the most notorious security branches of the Saddam era. The subject is clearly still topical, if one considers the allegations levied against Maliki of running secret prisons.
The other main category of non-breaking news programs featured on independent channels can be best described as public service. In this case, similar programs can also be found on Al-Iraqiya and the Islamist channels Baghdad and Al-Furat. One of the most common format is the hosting of a government official to respond to questions from the home-based audience or to those raised by the presenter during an investigation. The debated issues include the poor status of infrastructures and services in Iraq. Some independent stations seem thus to be aware that, as historian Ibrahim al-Marashi has pointed out, the instigation to sectarian strife can be countered by producing TV contents that provide an alternative to everyday violence.