World Media in 2005: Saudi and pan-Arabia

A more honest reporting style has been one of the surprising aftermaths of 11 September in Saudi and elsewhere, in other Arab states, media channels are undergoing radical makeovers.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia goes to the polls in 2005 to elect regional councillors. In many ways, this represents a turning point for the country in terms of democracy. Demands for political reform are being met, albeit slowly. In the regional elections, candidates have been carefully selected and women are still not allowed to vote.

Women are not always pushed out of the picture, though. Saudi women are internet fans and make up two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's online population.

The government frequently closes down websites through hi-tech security systems. Unsurprisingly, for a country which is home to Islamist militants that pose a threat to national security, there is some censorship across the media. Al Qaeda has capitalised on resentment towards the US throughout the middle east, so it's interesting to note that 11 September led to a more honest and less restricted reporting style.

The state-run Broadcasting Service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (BSKSA) continues to control the country's four main TV networks. Saudi Arabia has also been an important market for pan-Arab satellite stations and TV in total claims two- thirds of adspend.

Elsewhere in the Arab nations, Dubai, the commercial capital of United Arab Emirates, is growing in stature. Work has started on the world's tallest building, Burj Dubai, which will be complete in 2007. It will adorn the world's biggest shopping mall and be close to Dubai Media City (DMC), which was erected in 2000.

DMC has been a hub for agencies and media owners, particularly satellite channels such as Star, Disney and the pan-Arab channel Abu Dhabi TV. The satellite broadcaster Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) relocated from London to DMC. Media owners enjoy freedom of speech in Dubai, particularly compared with other parts of the region. Foreign titles, however, are censored before distribution.

DMC's neighbour is Dubai Internet City, home to the likes of Microsoft and Compaq. More than one-third of UAE's three million population has internet access. Dubai is spending heavily on branding itself as a tourist destination, offering fine weather and great shopping. Retail is the country's biggest advertising category, spending almost double the amount ($35.7 million) of UAE's second-biggest advertisers, cars ($18.3 million).

ADVERTISING EXPENDITURE

USdollars million at current prices. *Estimated

News- Mag-

Total papers azines TV Radio Outdoor Internet

1993 321 152 82 87 - - -

1994 394 168 102 124 - - -

1995 418 176 118 124 - - -

1996 488 191 101 146 13 38 -

1997 641 218 101 277 11 36 -

1998 789 237 103 411 9 29 -

1999 856 238 98 482 11 27 -

2000 1,006 276 103 583 17 27 -

2001 1,333 312 169 822 20 10 -

2002 1,629 356 181 1,026 25 41 -

2003 1,894 399 184 1,258 16 37 9

2004 2,169 460 200 1,450 18 41 18

2005* 2,447 500 210 1,670 20 47 36

2006* 2,765 550 225 1,920 20 50 80

2007* 3,019 591 238 2,112 22 56 110

ADSPEND NOTES

1) Includes agency commission

2) Before discounts

3) Excludes production costs

4) Excludes classified advertising

5) Saudi Arabia has no cinemas and no commercial radio

6) "Pan Arab" includes Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar,

Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and North Africa: Saudi is by far the largest

element, and much "regional" advertising is simply overspill.

7) Outdoor does not include semi-permanent installations like outsize

hoardings and Unipoles

8) Advertising spend on pay-TV is not monitored

FACTFILE

SAUDI ARABIA

HIGHEST CIRCULATING

Newspaper: Ashraq Al Awsat (daily, 246,000)

Business magazine: Al Majallah (weekly, 100,000)

Consumer magazine: Al Jadeeda (women's weekly, 154,000)

UAE

HIGHEST CIRCULATING

Newspaper: Gulf News (daily, 86,000)

Business magazine: Al-Shuruq (17,000)

Consumer magazine: Zaharat Al-Khaleej (women's weekly, 100,000)

LOWDOWN

Media topic du jour - Freer reporting. Journalists are getting awards for investigative work, newspapers are forming unions, and media channels are getting makeovers. Media is "professionalising" and it's being talked about in the press, at ceremonies and on talkshows.

Reigning media guru and why - Talal bin Waleed has interests in a wide range of stations in and outside of Saudi Arabia.

Media mogul to be seen dining with and why - Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim, the chairman of MBC Group, which will launch three pan-Arab TV stations and two radio channels in Saudi Arabia over three years.

Car to drive - Hummer.

Top-selling beer brand - With the exception of Egypt and Lebanon, this is not a beer region. Water, dairy, juice and soda sell really well ...

Phone to carry - The latest Nokia.

Whatever you do, don't say ... "I'm so happy Bush was re-elected."

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