Digital media

With regard to Internet services, there are currently more than 4.5 million Internet Users in Lebanon in 2016, 75.9 percent of the country population.

Through the Ogero company, the telecommunications ministry provides wireless Internet and DSL. DSL was offered for the first time in April 2007. According to recent Telecommunication Ministry figures, in few years the number of DSL subscribers has strongly increased, passing from around 18,000 in 2009 to 537,135 in 2016. Available in the main cities, the network is still under development in some rural areas. DSL services typically cost from €12 a month (2 Mbps) to €50 a month (above 8 Mbps), while wireless Internet services, offered for the first time in 2006, cost around €25 a month.

According to the Broadband Manifesto (May 2008), the economic growth and the social development of the country depend also on the availability of real broadband connectivity for citizens and enterprises. Despite the pressure from civil society groups, Lebanon still lacks infrastructures permitting access to a broadband connection. The country does not have a special network to transport data, which is presently being transported over the existing landline telephone network. Moreover, the international bandwidth is very low and limited, and the Telecommunications Ministry has exclusivity in establishing international gateways and transporting international traffic. There is no true competition in the Lebanese telecom market as Ogero dominates the market in a stagnant status quo environment.

Thanks to digitisation, Lebanon’s residents have access to a variety of news platforms, from 24-hour cable and satellite channels to Internet sites and text message services. But this wide range of available media outlets does not translate into a greater plurality of opinions. Many new sources simply replicate the voices expressed through traditional media. The same political agendas reflected in traditional media also exist online. Even the new players, previously marginalised for political reasons and now entering the media arena, simply imitate the established and partisan status quo. Journalists interviewed by Open Society for the 2012 Mapping Digital Media report evince a distrust for the uncontrolled quality of online material and suggest that digital media outlets, which support citizen journalism, actually exacerbate partisan bias.

According to the Arab Media Outlook 2009–2013 report, the top news websites in Lebanon belong to, or mirror, the same political parties that own the country’s traditional media. Regarding online media, the same study noted that 23 percent of Lebanese people read news online more than five times a week, whilst 40 percent do so between one and four times a week, and 37 percent four times a month or less. Among the most popular websites there are mainly locally created news: Lbcgroup.tv, Aljadeed.tv, the websites of the namesake TV channels, Lebanon24, a TV station based in Tripoli, in the North of the country, and Tayyar.org, mouthpiece of the FPM and close to the pro-Iranian and pro-Syrian government sphere. In particular, according to the Effective Measure report based upon data collected from 11,937 individuals who were active online in Lebanon during September 2016, Lbcgroup.tv showed the largest audience in Lebanon, with almost 1.2m unique browsers visiting the site during the month. Lebanon24 and Tayyar.org ranked second and third. Of the top 20 sites, Lebanonfiles and Sayidaty registered the longest average visit durations, with visitors to both sites staying for an average of 13 minutes and over.

In 2012 the magazine Forbes Middle East released the top-50 list of online newspapers in the MENA region, based on their “presence online, their content and the number of followers they generate.” Three Lebanese newspapers were included in the first 20 websites (Al-Akhbar at number 12; An-Nahar at 13 and As-Safir at 17).

Even though it is not always a reliable source of information, the two main mobile operators (Alfa and Mtc) and many media outlets offer a breaking-news service via text messages. This service is valid in Lebanon and abroad and usually available for a $10 fee a month. In more recent times, the websites of the major newspapers and TV stations (also pan-Arab satellite channels) have all started developing their own app for Android and iOS to promote their contents and send alerts for breaking news to mobile phones and other devices. Web television and video news are still scarcely used on Internet newspapers . The dominating source of web TV is Youtube and the various social network platforms such as Facebook.