<$BlogItemTitle$> <$BlogItemTitle$>Broadcasters of Tomorrow

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Al Jazeera, Arab TV & State Funding

Some of the AUS students who were blogging live from the Arab Broadcast Forum.

The final session opened up with a grilling of the guests on discrepancies in the funding of Arab channels. Citing numbers showing a wide disparity between advertising revenues and operating expenses, the moderator sought answers from the panel of advertising moguls and multimedia executives. How long can broadcasters continue to operate without a practical business model? Most Arab channels don’t rely on advertising to cover expenditures; they receive state funding, and according to Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Shammam, “under the table” finances.

Mazen Hayek of MBC Group pointed to the fact that his company was an exception, in that it relied entirely on advertising revenues. He underlined the need to view advertising as a means to developing a robust media community and described advertising models employing new media such as SMS messages. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi TV executive Ali Al-Ahmed stressed the need for significant government funding to cover ever-rising costs. He pointed out that Arab media companies ought to be forthwith about their government funding, since government subsidies and having a pro-regime agenda do not necessarily go hand in hand.

Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Shammam admitted Al Jazeera relies on state funding but approved of trend whereby Arab media channels are trying to develop a sustainable business model based on advertising. There is, however, very little reliable auditing of television viewers and no pan-Arab recognized rating system. Advertising mogul Antoine Shuoeiri blamed ailing television channels for obscuring audience figures. He suggested many broadcasters would be embarrassed by the low numbers of people watching their programs.

Fox News Defends Perceived Bias

The second annual Arab Media Forum kicked off with a lively debate moderated by Egyptian media giant Emad Adeeb.
The debate touched on the fairness of coverage in Arab and Western news media. Amy Kellogg, Middle East correspondent to Fox News, defended her channel’s perceived bias towards Israel, asserting that Fox News was the only Western channel to maintain a camera crew reporting from Gaza after the war in Lebanon. (although BBC also had a crew there!) Kellog insisted that Fox journalists reporting from the field simply relayed the news and suggested talk shows such as Bill O’Reilly’s are similar to the op-ed pages in newspapers.

The debate shifted to the media's role in escalating sectarian violence. Many audience members agreed that media coverage contributes to widening the gap between warring Shiite and Sunni populations in Iraq. Despite the political context of news, raising distinctions between different religious groups promoted a religious spin on the conflict. Ali Al-Jabri, an Abu Dhabi TV presenter, reaffirmed this view by indicating that Baghdad itself was divided into factional regions.

US Evacuation from Iraq

Speaking at the Arab Broadcast Forum in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Mohamed Reda Khatami, ex-deputy speaker of Parliament, Islamic Republic of Iran said "at the moment evacuation would be a bigger mistake than invading Iraq."

Arab Broadcast Forum

Today we are attending the Arab Broadcast Forum in Abu Dhabi. The organizers have generously provided us with the opportunity to participate in this event. One of the key sessions is titled: Reaching the Arab Street. It poses the question "How are Arab broadcasters connecting with the Arab youth?"
The day starts with a session on reform in Iran featuring Dr. Mohamed Reda Khatami, ex-deputy speaker of Parliament, Islamic Republic of Iran. More later.