Murdoch bets on Arab creativity as media forum opens

Murdoch addressing the inaugural session of Abu Dhabi Media Summit. (GETTY IMAGES)

News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch yesterday said he was betting on Arab creativity, as he opened a high-profile media conference in Abu Dhabi.

His company has recently stepped up its investments in the region with a $70 million (Dh257.13m) stake in Saudi-based media group Rotana and the move of some of its Fox TV operations to Abu Dhabi. And in his address, Murdoch appealed for only a light regulation of stories.

The media magnate appealed to the ambitions of oil-rich Abu Dhabi to diversify its economy and raise its international status by becoming a cultural hub for the region, saying the emirate should have the confidence to open its markets.

"A creative sector flourishes best in societies where governments intervene with a light hand," he said, adding that economic incentives were more effective than protectionism.

"With these incentives in place, you will build a creative sector worthy of the great capital you have planned," he said.

With more than 400 delegates from all over the world, the agenda of the summit this year is to focus on the emerging markets and divert the attention of international players to the Middle East market, said officials at the curtain raiser of the summit that took place at the newly built Yas Hotel in the capital.

The official communiqué, announcing the inaugural summit under the patronage of General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said the world's media industry is congregating in Abu Dhabi this week to attend the inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

The invitation-only summit is hosted by the Abu Dhabi Media Company, along with Abu Dhabi-based partners, including twofour54, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, etisalat, Etihad Airways, Aldar and Mubadala. Booz & Company is also participating as the official knowledge sponsor.

In a welcome statement for the high-profile delegation of over 400 people that includes more than 40 chairmen from international media companies and around 80 CEOs, Mohamed Khalaf Al Mazrouei, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit and of Abu Dhabi Media Company, said: "The Middle East is one of the fastest-growing regions for the media industry, thanks to more accessible technologies, higher disposable incomes, and increased consumer appetite for news and entertainment.

"Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Media Company are looking to play a key role in this growth, which is why we have gathered some of the most influential minds in our industry together here this week. We believe that this summit will become one of the most important industry forums of its kind anywhere in the world," he added.

Announcing the relevance and objective of the summit, Edward Borgerding, CEO of the host, Abu Dhabi Media Company, said: "We are very excited to have such a phenomenal list of co-chairs and delegates for the first Abu Dhabi Media Summit. This is a truly global group, with diverse perspectives and experiences in their regions.

"We hope that bringing this group together will not only help spark a dialogue about our shared challenges and opportunities in the media industry, but also help us work towards common solutions for evolving our industry during a time of transition."

Representing etisalat, as one of the main sponsors of the summit, Ahmed bin Ali, said: "The event will bring all the major players on a common platform and let us all exchange the ideas of converging the latest in digital technology with the conventional media."

Highlighting the achievements of etisalat, he said: "With operations in more than 18 countries, serving more than 100 million consumer base, we are always seeking new platforms and updating the technological tools that enable us to provide more and more of content through our networks.

"We are seeking more and more content and by partnering with bodies such as the Abu Dhabi Media Company and events such as Abu Dhabi Media Summit, we intend to enhance our content and provide the best to our clients."

The three-day summit will conclude tomorrow, with delegates from diverse territories across the globe – including China, Korea, India, Chile, the US, and the UK – will join high-profile regional and UAE-based media executives to discuss and debate issues affecting the media industry around the globe. A large contingent of high-level regional and international press corps was also present.

Most debates and discussions are being held behind close doors with limited access to press and others. Responding to the denial of accessibility and transparency of these activities, Borgerding said representatives in such debates and discussins are more open in expressing their opinion, which may not necessarily be the official stance of an organisation.

"The entire population of the region is about 350 million, which is almost same as the population of the US. And the media stature is $3 trillion, which is just 1/5th in comparison to the US," said Karim Sabbagh of Booz & Company. "It's not the small size of the media market that we should look at but the immense scope of improvement in the region." (with inputs from Reuters)

Who's who list

The summit agenda was created with the participation of several co-chairs from across the media industry. Confirmed 2010 co-chairs include:

- Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, twofour54

- Tim Armstrong, CEO, AOL

- Dr Kai-Fu Lee, Chariman and CEO, Innovation Works

- Dr Seok Chae Lee, Chairman, KT Corporation

- Maurice Lévy, Chairman, PublicisGroupe

- Didier Lombard, Chairman, Orange/France Telecom

- Kishore Lulla, Chairman & CEO, Eros International

- Dirk Meyer, President & CEO, AMD

- Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman & CEO, Bharti Enterprises

- Rupert Murdoch, Chairman, News Corporation

- Mohammed Omran Chairman, etisalat

- Hartmut Ostrowski, Chairman & CEO, Bertelsmann

- Dr Prannoy Roy, Executive Chairperson, NDTV

- Hans Vestberg, President & CEO, Ericsson

- Mehmet Ali Yalçindag, CEO & Vice-Chairman, Dogan Media Group

- Barry Meyer, Chairman and CEO, Warner Bros Entertainment

The convergence of technology and media is one of the telecom sector's unstoppable trends and this is why we are investing in our network to help service our client's needs through providing access to rich content Mohammed Omran, Chairman, Etisalat

Technology is advancing at an astonishing rate across, shaping both media and societal change. I'm delighted to be a co-chair of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which I believe will be a meeting of minds that looks to become a crucial event in the media industry calendar Hans Vestberg, President & CEO, Ericsson

This summit will be a great opportunity to bring insight into the future of media and telecommunication industries. I would like to share my experience and vision with many experts from different fields and to discuss the future of media with global leaders Dr Suk Chae-Lee, CEO, KT Corporation

The summit represents an unprecedented gathering of global media and technology leaders enabling the next wave of innovation that is poised to drive global media. I'm proud to be a co-chair at this seminal event in one of the world's fastest growing markets for technology and media Dirk Meyer, President & CEO, AMD

The summit comes at the right time –media is set to grow rapidly in developing countries and an exchange of ideas with the developed world will be most productive. Breaking institutional constraints as well as combating lower barriers to entry are some of the key issues to focus on Dr Prannoy Roy, Executive Chairperson, NDTV

I am delighted and honoured to be a co-chair at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Media summit. This represents a unique opportunity for such a auspicious group of business leaders to meet and discuss the continuous evolving developments in our industry Kishore Lulla, Chairperson & CEO, Eros International


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