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22 July 2024

Arab Forum to highlight impact of financial crisis on the sector

Bin Fahad says the results of the Arab Media Outlook will be discussed at the Media Forum. (EB FILE)

By Dima Hamadeh

The Arab Media Forum, which is to take place by the end of April in Dubai, will highlight many of the implications of the global financial crisis on the media industry after the first quarter of 2009, said Maryam Bin Fahad, Executive Director of Dubai Press Club.

Speaking with Emirates Business, Bin Fahad stressed that the results of the Arab Media Outlook will be discussed and updated within the Media Forum.

"In the aftermath of the global crisis, we changed the whole plan for the Arab Media Forum 2009, to touch on the current challenges, mainly those hinted in the Arab Media Outlook which was launched recently," said Bin Fahad.

"This way the forum will bridge the 2009 and 2010 reports and offer a better view of the industry's landscape in light of the first three-month results," she added. The report was supposed to be issued in November 2008, but is now delayed so as to study some of the early indicators and effects of the crisis, said Bin Fahad.

She said: "The role of Dubai Press Club is now more important. It is our mandate now to highlight impacts of the critical situation worldwide on the media industry in the Arab world, and invite all stakeholders to discuss the possible escapes, the necessary innovations to weather through.

"We are facing major challenges, and it is time to pose important questions about what our industry needs at the moment and in the coming years. Do we really need 600 satellite TVs or do we need 10 high-quality stations? How should the Arab media react to the crisis?"

According to Bin Fahad, the media worldwide, and in the region, have compromised the trust of their audience by not pointing out the upcoming downturn. They have created a gap between them and the public. "How are they going to resolve this loss? How will media organisations maintain their sustainability with the drop in advertising revenue?"

"The Arab Media Outlook highlighted the need to utilise new technologies. It is understandable that most countries in the Arab world don't have internet penetration rates as high as the UAE, but investment in new technologies can be more cost effective in the long term. A few successful cases have been operating in the region through a diversified spectrum of media channels and technologies such as Al Jazeera International, but the experience has to spread wideracross."

Another issue, noted Bin Fahad, is the need for auditing. "A few initiatives to apply media auditing have been launched recently in Saudi Arabia and UAE, however, Arab media are still resistant to revealing their circulation figures. Yet, this will soon turn out to be an obstacle to attracting advertisement, especially with tightened ad spend and expectations of a fiercer competition."

We are currently revising the indicators and the financial data available to be able to put forward concrete information at the Arab Media Forum. The forum will consequently issue recommendation and solid outcomes based on research contributed by the speakers and participants.

The Arab Media Outlook 2010 is expected to come out in January next year. "We are certain there will be a lot of changes in the current year, that will be reflected in the upcoming report. It will definitely touch on the financial and business aspects of the media industry, as one of the major highlights of this period.

In addition to the 12 existing countries covered by the report, Dubai Press Club is currently looking at including between two and four new countries.

This and other major Dubai Press Club projects such as the Arab Journalism Award will run as planned despite funding challenges prevalent in the whole industry, said Bin Fahad.