Role of UAE Mass Media and its Regulatory Bodies

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan

Communication is an integral part of human civilization and culture. Mass media is an effective tool of communication with the society, major national stakeholders and international agencies too. The function of Media is to cater news and views. In performing these functions, Media is influenced and shaped by the culture and economics of the society. Mass media is also viewed as the mirror of the society in which they are operating.

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UAE, media acts as a window to and mirror of society, which reflects different aspects of contemporary culture, economics, and politics and its influence on society.

Ideal Combination of Modernity and Civility

Media has become modern deity which has the power to rock the world and shake the governments. It has capitalistic origin. But in case of United Arab Emirates, it is the ideal combination of modernity and civility. It stands for professionalism and avoids irresponsibleness. It is mouth-organ of common people at large. It protects the native/national culture, preserves traditions, history and heritage through constant produces materials, policies and programs.

Media: 4th Pillar of the State

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It is crystal clear that media the 4th pillar of the state has become crucial in safe guarding the national identity and security around the globe. Every state, small or big uses it to maintain stability in the country. It is the gatekeeper of national culture, heritage and traditions. It is one the key mediums of soft image projection. It supports nation’s commercial diplomacy efforts too. Undoubtedly, mass media in the UAE acts as the 4th pillar of its government and state.

Media: A Key Organ

According to different UAE Year Books, the media industry in the United Arab Emirates has made major progress over the 41 years since the state was established. In recent years, the latest developments in telecommunications and information technology have been successfully introduced.
Right from its inception, UAE media has been one of the key organs of the state to stand first against any external cultural threat and dealt with devastating ideas which seek to undermine security and stability, and twist and distort the facts. It also affirmed consolidation of transparency, freedoms, updating legislation regulating media activities and the establishment of Media Free Areas.

It has complete vision against foreign illusionists. It counters their baseless allegations with reason, logic and objectivity. It always digs hard to come up with more credible facts and figures.

Media: A Biggest Equalizer

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UAE national media works as a one coherent team guided by prudent policy towards development and progress. It plays a positive role in promoting and fostering the spirit of inter-sectoral cooperation, solidarity and harmony. It does not believe in yellow journalism, sensitization, seditious and rumormongering. It always stands for perfection, authentic values, and responsible attitude.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Report

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According to BBC (August 27, 2013), the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and especially Abu Dhabi has emerged as a media hub. Now, the UAE is a regional and international centre for TV and media, alongside Egypt and Lebanon. Dubai Media City and twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media zone, were set up to attract key players.

Organisations including Reuters, CNN, Sony and Fox have offices and landing rights in the UAE. The UAE is home to major pan-Arab broadcasters, including MBC and Orbit Showtime Network. Sky News Arabia launched from Abu Dhabi in 2012. Majority of the audiences are from Arab speaking countries along with South Asian region. Most domestic UAE media outlets are run by state-owned Abu Dhabi Media and Dubai Media Incorporated but there is no restriction on private media sector.

Nobel Concept of Self-Censorship

Mass media, society and main stake holders are matured enough to observe self-censorship in the UAE which is a healthy sign for the development of mass media and its associated sub-sectors. It is always hard to apply clear-cut policies/guidelines on mass media in any country around the world. Appropriate check and balance system must be there to make the mass media productive, progressive, and healthy instead of free flow of information, culture invasion through TV dramas, videos, social media and the last but not the least cinema. The UAE’’s regulatory bodies are vigilant enough to safe guard the strategic interests of the country and also prepared enough to counter the propaganda tactics of bad wishers.

InternetWorldStats.com Findings

According to InternetWorldStats.com (June 2012), the UAE has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the Arab world. By June 2012 there were 5.9 million users. More than 40 percent of residents use Facebook at least once a month.

UAE Arabic Print Media

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Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 Al-Bayan Dubai government
2 Alittihad Abu Dhabi government
3 AlKhaleej Sharjah
4 AlWatan Abu Dhabi
5 Alemarat Alyoum Dubai government
6 Alrroya Abu Dhabi
Source: Different UAE Official Data

UAE English Print Media

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Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 The National Abu Dhabi government
2 Gulf News Dubai
3 Khaleej Times Private/ Dubai
4 Emirates 24/7 Online
5 Gulf Today Sharjah
6 7Days Private/free-of-charge tabloid
Source: UAE Year Book (2013)

UAE Electronic Media

Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) Dubai government-owned pan-Arab broadcaster
2 Dubai TV Dubai
3 Dubai One Dubai
4 Abu Dhabi TV Pan-Arab broadcaster
5 Ajman TV Ajman government-owned
6 Sharjah TV Sharjah government-owned
Source: UAE Year Book (2013)

Regional Electronic Media

Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 MBC Dubai based pan-Arab broadcaster
2 Al-Arabiya MBC/Dubai
3 Sky News Arabia Abu Dhabi-based pan-Arab network
Source: UAE Year Book (2013)

Transcontinental Mass Media

Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 Reuters Abu Dhabi/Dubai
2 CNN Abu Dhabi/Dubai
3 Sony Abu Dhabi/Dubai
4 Fox Abu Dhabi/Dubai
Source: UAE Year Book (2013)

Radio/FM

Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 Abu Dhabi Media Company Operates Abu Dhabi FM and other networks
2 Radio Asia, commercial, broadcasts in Hindi, Urdu and Malayalam Private/commercial
3 Al-Arabiya FM Commercial, Arabic pop
4 Dubai 92 Commercial, English-language pop
5 Noor Dubai 93.9 Commercial, “Islamic-oriented” news, talk
6 City 1016 Commercial, programmes in English and Urdu
Source: UAE Year Book (2013)

UAE News Agency

Sr. No Names of the Publication Owner-Ship Status
1 Emirates News Agency (WAM) Abu Dhabi/ official

Comparative Analysis

The above tables show that UAE mass media is vibrant, diversified and modern. It also shows that UAE media is result oriented, purposeful and responsible. It speaks highly about healthy contribution of the private sector in the field of mass media and its associated sub-sector. It ranges from national news to national agenda, governance, business, socio-economic development, entertainment, education, women empowerment and the last but not the least Emiratisation.

Statistical Data

According to official data there are 15 local TV channels, 24 radio stations, nine daily Arabic newspapers and five daily English newspapers, as well as hundreds of weekly and monthly magazines and specialised periodicals are working in the UAE. UAE Journalists Association and the Dubai Press Club cater to the needs of media personnel. It has four media free zones (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah) in which a large number of media organizations operate. Twofour 54 is one of the media zones in Abu Dhabi, which has attracted over 214 of the world’s major companies in the field of media content.

According to UAE Year Book (2013), U.A.E. currently hosts the up-link facilities for 86 Arab satellite channels, representing 13.3 per cent of the total number of satellite channels in Arab countries. Moreover, Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone Authority (DTMFZA) include over 1400 national and international media establishments. This includes Dubai Media Incorporated, which specialises in journalism, publishing, media and T.V broadcasting, advertising and publishing. The Fujairah Media Group operates a free trade zone which works in four major fields, radio, television, publishing and media services.

UAE’s Media Positive and Healthy Inputs

UAE media has been contributing positive and healthy inputs in the formation of national agenda about education, health, clean drinking water or food security problems. It has succeeded to build a tolerant society, institutionalization of transparency in the different organs of the state including corporate sector. It has the ability to excel and led. It has unparalleled professional qualities to differentiate between the reality and fiction, good and bad, truth and falsehood and ecstasy and responsibility.

National Media Strategy

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According to Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister and Chairman of the NMC, national media strategy may consist of the following:

It is seek to develop media strategy that plays a key role in supporting and fortifying national and social values, in addition to contributing to develop journalism, aiding it to discharge its targeted role, to be an effective part of the country’s system.

The strategy aims, in its frame and role, to deliver national media message abroad and support our national identity, in addition to establishing and creating a highly efficient national cadre, as well as re-organising the priorities of the NMC.

The NMC to be a lever for the development of the media sector in the country through a sharing plan with other media organisations, so as to develop the mechanisms to raise the media sector through various projects, including training and other specialised legislative frameworks that preserve and upgrade the level of media freedoms in the country”.

National Media Council (NMC)

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NMC is an independent federal government body established by Federal Law. It was formed in 2006. The NMC was formed to supervise media policy in the country and promote media content, in addition to developing Emirati media cadres. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan chairs the National Media Council.

It oversees the development of media in UAE and to support media initiatives. It has the vision to meet the international standards in media regulation to achieve sustainable development in the country.

Mission

It has mission of development and regulation of an integrated and distinguished national media system leading to enhancing the UAE’s national and international position through evolving appropriate media policies and regulations and coordinating their implementation in conjunction with relevant parties.

Core Essence

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The core essence of the NMC is the utmost professionalism which encourages professional practices through commitment to credibility, efficiency and distinction. It upholds transparency by promoting attitudes and conducts within the organization. It is the icon of truth, straightforwardness and credibility in the delivery of specialised media and information services
National Media Council is performing different diversified but integrated functions which are given below as:

Protection of National Policies and Identity

Mehmood (2013, April 5), the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s National Media Council (NMC) is playing an important role in further enhancing of national drive of Emiratization, building of strong national character, promoting of national resilience against alien cultures and detrimental traditions. Moreover, the UAE media under the supervision has a crucial role in fostering the UAE’s national identity and social cohesion by inculcating pride in Emirati culture, loyalty and hard work in young citizens.

The UAE, like other nations, has concerns related to national identity. The French, German, Japanese and Indians all share these concerns over their national identities. But NMC is preparing its society and people to interact positively with other cultures and not surrender to other cultures, traditions and heritages.

Policy Coordinator

The NMC is assigned to tackle and coordinate media policy among the emirates, in line with the country’s policies inside and outside its borders, to ensure support for the Union and highlight the concept of national unity.

Greater Political Participation/Socio-Economic Development

It also highlights and protects the government’s efforts to achieve greater political participation, social cohesion and cultural chasteness. It shows the miraculous socio-economic prosperity and religious tolerance through its editorials, news reports articles and special awareness programs. It takes care about UAE national geo-political issues and regional geo-strategic vested interests. It keeps on sharp eyes on emerging regional and international changes.

Greater Public Awareness

It is the matter of carbon footnotes or water security, consumer rights or irresponsible advertising, endangered species or environment public awareness, the UAE media in general and the National Media Council in particular always stood first and firm to project all these issues in the country. It is the matter of cultural reinforcement or tradition transition, hotelier or heritage tenacious, NMC always worked hard to maintain its high quality. NMC played an important role to maintain cultural pluralism and spirits of coexistence between different beliefs and cultures. It has been showing keen interest to hold on to its national identity and cultural particularity, including its traditions, norms, values and ways of living. According to WAM, NMC also celebrates “Earth Hour” on regular basis which further enhances the importance of nature, climate and laws in the eyes of common people.

Transcontinental Connectivity & Spirits of Cooperation

NMC has been instrumental in winning the hearts and souls in the foreign lands around the globe by greater connectivity, cooperation and coordination. NMC has been hosting and inviting intellectuals, experts, researches, media personnel, writer, reporters and editors to showcase the levels of socio-economic prosperity, political activation, tourism heavens and the last but not the least, corporate entities.

Supervisory Services

It also supervises the import of newspapers, magazines and books from abroad in order to secure tranquility and stability for citizens and supervises all media outlets, in addition to highlighting the country’s stature in regional and international events.

Formation of Strategic Alliances

It has values of greater participation by connecting and activating all internal and external channels of communication and building strategic alliances and partnerships with all media stakeholders at national and international levels to achieve common goals are achieving skies.

Proactive & Innovative

It has the unmatched leadership qualities to be always proactive and innovative in all sectors to achieve sustainable development in the UAE. NMC stands for responsibility and dutifulness by promoting a spirit of responsibility towards the community in all its work sectors. Now due to which the UAE is endowed with an unparalleled viable media scene in terms of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Development and Check on Social Media

National Media Council is the most connected organization in the region and around the globe. Every day there any signing ceremony is staged with the other regional and global news agencies and media houses/departments or miniseries.

Subsidiary Services

The Emirates News Agency (WAM) has already applied new standards for the development of its online news to achieve the highest degrees of social networking web pages and reach millions of readers and visitors around the world. Due to which WAM is the most visited web on social media. It is most advanced web. It is customer friendly, easy to connect and browsing. Millions of visitors can now follow WAM on Facebook and Twitter and benefit from the flow of news, photographs and television broadcast around the clock to the most important/prominent events and activities of political, economic, cultural, tourist and social development in the UAE. The initiatives of the NMC and WAM to expand online news on the global level, keep pace with the tremendous development in social media and find new outlets for the agency is now paying its dividends. WAM has established a page on Facebook and Twitter to disseminate important news on a daily basis in both Arabic and English, while the number of news. According to WAM, the Emirates News Agency, WAM, channel on YouTube has attracted over 1.1 million viewers. It also won best media coverage award at Arab Media Tourism Forum.

Introduction of Smart Services

WAM, tells that the NMC is taking all possible measures under the directives of its chairman, Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, to provide reliable smart and customer-friendly services to the public, whether individuals or companies. NMC provides 49 media services and has so far issued more than 5,000 licences.

Production of Publication, Documentaries, Films and Books

The NMC’s External Information Department produces publications and other media materials, in several languages, for distribution both inside and outside the UAE, and also provides facilities for foreign media visiting the Emirates.

Licensing & Regularity Authority

NMC is also the licensing authority in the country. It follows up on media content and the registration of foreign media correspondents working in the country. It also supervises the import of newspapers, magazines and books from abroad. In order to preserve the national identity and language the NMC issued regulations that stipulate the language used in advertising should either be Modern Standard Arabic or the local Emirati dialect.

Responsible for International EXPOS

It is also responsible for the UAE’s participation in international EXPOS, these providing a valuable platform for the introduction of the country’s heritage and progress to audiences overseas. UAE pavilion won the silver medal in the top category of participants. A film produced for the Yeosu EXPO, ‘The Turtle’, promoting marine conservation, won two gold medals at international film festivals in Cannes, France and Dubai, a great achievement by the NMC. In addition to this previously UAE pavilions at international EXPOS have also been medal winners, in Shanghai in 2010 and in Zaragoza, Spain, in 2008.

To further participate in the international EXPOs and project the soft image of the country, the NMC signed a contract to participate in EXPO 2015 in Milan, Italy, in which over 200 countries are expected to take part in October 2012. NMC is also striding to project the Dubai bid to host the 2020 EXPO.

Formation of Consultative Council

To make it more effective and assertive, H. H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister and Chairman of the National Media Council (NMC) has issued a resolution forming the consultative council of the NMC. It includes officials from media institutions and academics. It will discuss, follow up, and coordinate joint initiatives between NMC and media sector, as well as form sub-committees to enable NMC explain the state’s general media policy media to the media organisations. The new body will review topics referred to it so as to make recommendations ahead of submitting them to the chairman of NMC.

TV Audience Measurement project (TAM)

The Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), Sharjah Media Inc., Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) and the NMC signed a MoU governing the launch of the TV Audience Measurement project (TAM) in May 2010. Following extensive consultation with the industry, the NMC and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) launched the TAM initiative as a critical step towards greater development of the UAE’s media industry.

Concluding Remarks

We are living in a complex and complicated web of information where mass media i.e. print and electronic media play very important role. Today media is an effective tool of opinion making, persuasion of public policy, projection of soft image/soft power and even formation of foreign policy. In this regard, UAE media is versatile and vibrant.
UAE media plays a key role in asserting national identity and disseminating its message among the masses. Its media has witnessed a significant transformation. The comprehensive development taking place in the UAE has attracted world-wide media attention.
National Media Council is a live-wire to generate new ideas of excel, progress, unity, and connectivity. It works for the pride, dignity and comfort of the people. It spreads the message of tolerance, equality and fair play. Now, the role of NMC has been established and consolidated under the supervision of H.E. Ibrahim Al-Abed Director General, NMC.

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Most recently, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum has honoured Ibrahim Al-Abed Director General with the “Media Personality of the Year Award” category in recognition of his contributions to the local and Arab media including the foundation of UAE News Agency “WAM.”
Mass media has now become the ideal destination for the projection of dreams and destruction, progress and prejudice, commerce and conspiracy, democracy and divergence, love and lull, peace and persuasion, humanity and horrendousness, pop and pope and above all free market and nationalism and being icon of thorough professionalism, the National Media Council cares the UAE mass media and its associated sub-sectors to promote socio-economic policies of the government and spreads spirits of tolerance, hope, inter-faith harmony at large.

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