MBC Group Discusses the Changing Role of Media in the Arab World at the Fourth Harvard Arab Alumni Association Conference in Cairo

Published May 30th, 2009 - 06:14 GMT

The Harvard Arab Alumni Association held its Fourth Annual Conference in Cairo under the theme: "The Arab World: Shaping the Future." Keynote speaker at the inaugural session, Egyptian Finance Minister, Dr. Youssef Boutros Ghali, addressed the topic of the Arab world in light of the global economic crisis at the inaugural session .The dedicated panel on "the changing role of media in the Arab world" included several prominent participants from different media outlets, namely Caryle Murphy, independent journalist, Khaled Almaeena, Editor-In-Chief of “Arab News”, Hoda Abdel-Hamid, field correspondent of "Al Jazeera" and Mazen Hayek, Group Director of Marketing, PR and Commercial at "MBC Group". The media panel was moderated by Lara Setrakian, "ABC News" correspondent and was jointly organized by Dr. May Al-Dabbagh, Director of the Gender Public Policy Program at the "Dubai School of Government". Participants focused on the current opportunities and future challenges of the 'Media & Entertainment' industry in MENA, while assessing ways in which censorship, regulation, and funding affect journalistic endeavors today.


On his side, MBC's Mazen Hayek emphasized the growing influence of broadcast media in Arab societies, on the instrumental role media plays in shaping the public opinion and influencing people’s daily lives, as well as contributing to both the economic activity and job creation in the vibrant sector of Content industries. Hayek wondered whether anyone can somehow imagine the status of the MENA region without private Arab Satellite TV channels, and compared this to imagining young global citizens today without social networking or internet access. Hayek added that TV is often looked at as the region’s most preferred and practiced “National Sport”, due to the fact that TV is watched on average for 4 hours a day, with approximately 2 TV sets per household, and a satellite penetration of over 95 %. Hayek reiterated that TV remains the most impactful mass media vehicle of content, ideas, entertainment, news and sports to Arab audiences; and that TV is the best vehicle for nurturing enduring brand-consumer connections and generating a high return on investment for advertisers.


Finally, Hayek concluded with outlining all-time challenges facing 'Media & Entertainment' but, also 'News' industries in MENA such as their ability to reflect the truth, continue to uncover wrongs, distinguish fact from comment, abide by a code of ethics and professional standards, remain ideology-free, provide the Arab public opinion with honest, credible and trusted information, and work closely with all sorts of private, public, state and non-state players. Other challenges relate to the need to continue providing viewers with premium content yielding to unique TV viewing experiences; and to tackle challenges of human capital in media; training and skill sharpening; financial investment, income and cost-cutting; operational requirements; anticipation of viewers' viewing habits and patterns; and other political, bureaucratic and technological considerations.

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