I’ve just returned from a panel discussion hosted by TECOM Investments’Media Cluster and the Dubai Press Club that brought together professionals in the Arab media industry here in the UAE. Panellists brought up key issues addressed by the fourth edition of the Arab Media Outlook report and discussed the challenges that face media professionals in today’s fast changing world of social media.

Executives on the panel included Santino Saguto, Partner and Consultant, Deloitte, Shadi Al Hasan, Managing Director and Founder, Flagship projects, Bilal Hijjawi, Managing Editor, Fortune Arabia and Mohammed Burhan, CEO, CNBC Arabia. Hijjawi noted that the problem was not with the quality of the content, but rather the channels that are being used to convey that content to the audience. Burhan predicted that in the near future every media publication in the region would need to be multimedia in nature to compete and successfully reach their audiences.

Although an overwhelming majority of TV stations, newspapers and magazines in the region do have websites, research shows that most are not being monetised effectively. More needs to be done to incorporation web and mobile applications for the growing number of users that want their content on demand and on-the-go.

The report also uncovered a lack of participation in social media platforms on the part of media professionals with many journalists and editors not even having a publication or personal account on Twitter. This poses some serious challenges as research shows a high level of disengagement with traditional media on the part of younger audiences, as they primarily turn to social media to get their news, communicate and interact.

Journalists attending the event questioned the role of the government in regional media outlets, and the difficulty of liberating media from strong oversight and influence. Al Jazeera was defined as a good example of an organisation that was launched by a government to go on to build a rapport and strong connection to its global audience. BBC was also mentioned as an enterprise that has received government support, but at the same time has refrained from being influenced by the government itself. Another key concerned addressed was the difficulty of defining intellectual property rights in the region, especially with the rise of citizen journalism. A possible solution would be to form a regional and united body for the pan-Arab region that would address such concerns and issues.

As countries like Libya, Tunisia and Egypt begin to redefine themselves post-Arab spring, media will be on close watch as an indicator of democratic progress.

In your opinion, what should be done to better address these issues faced by the Arab media? Please share your comments with us.

 

 

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