Inside Story: The Media Bazaar

The rush to the Gulf is on, with new television networks, newspapers, magazines and advertising agencies creating an English language media hub in the desert. Meg Carter is your guide
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The Independent Online


Abu Dhabi's new English-language daily

Ex-Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland, left, is assembling a team of more than 150 journalists from around the world to staff a new English- language daily published from Abu Dhabi – one of the seven wealthy, oil-rich states that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is expected to launch next month (March). The National or Capital Tribune are two names which have been discussed for the title.

Latest to sign up are Tahira Yaqoob, deputy showbiz editor at the Daily Mail; former Times T2 deputy features editor Burhan Wazir, who will edit the new paper's Arts & Life section; and ex-Press Gazette editor Philippa Kennedy who will be a regular contributor. Sue Ryan, former managing editor of the Daily Telegraph, has been hired as a design and recruitment consultant.

Abu Dhabi does not have its own national daily English-language newspaper. While most English-language papers in the region are national, Newland's new bosses at Abu Dhabi Media Company hope the new paper can have regional influence and be a title of record throughout the Middle East.

Emirates Business 24-7

Former Observer business editor Frank Kane, below, is the man behind Emirates Business 24-7, a daily business tabloid which launched in Dubai in December 2007. The new English-language paper is the reincarnation of an earlier title, Emirates Today, launched two-and-a-half years ago by Dubai-based Arab Media Group (AMG).

Kane, AMG's director of business media, heads 70 journalists gathering stories for an under-served business audience across the United Arab Emirates. "It's not just a British expat product," he said. "The Asian and Arab community read English – English is the international language."

Emirates Business 24-7 is not Kane's first venture in the region. In 2006 he was involved with former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil, second left, in a failed attempt to launch a daily business paper in Dubai.

Gulf News

"When outsiders think of English-language newspapers in the Middle East they think of the Daily Star published out of Lebanon and Gulf News published in Dubai," says Austyn Allison, managing director of Communicate, the region's marketing business monthly based in Dubai. Allison was formerly a freelance sub in Fleet Street. "Both are national titles with regional aspirations and influence, and it is Gulf News especially which Martin Newland's paper will be going up against."

Gulf News is a broadsheet and has a daily circulation of 92,000. Last year Gulf News launched a new weekly tabloid called the Express.


ITP Publishing Group based in Dubai publishes over 60 monthly and weekly titles in Arabic and English including paid-for English-language titles such as Arabian Business. It also holds licences to publish regional editions of titles already established in the UK such as Grazia; Harper's Bazaar, Timeout Abu Dhabi. Andrew Neil was appointed chairman of ITP in March 2006. Anil Bhoyrul, above, the ex-Daily Mirror "City Slicker" is the editorial director.


Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera English (AJE) is the English-language version of the Arabic 24-hour news channel. Launched in 2006 with money from the Emir of Qatar, who funded Al Jazeera almost 10 years ago, the channel is tipped to relaunch this year.

The station's Doha presenters include ex-ITV news correspondent Shiulie Ghosh, below; David Foster, who joined from Sky News; and Darren Jordon, a former presenter of the BBC's One O'Clock News. British correspondents include James Bays (ex-ITN); John Cookson (ex-BBC/IRN/TV-am/Sky News); and Mike Hanna (CNN's ex-Jerusalem bureau chief who before that was at Channel 4 News).

Recent reports say AJE staff have complained about working conditions after a number of Western journalists left or did not have contracts renewed. There has been speculation that cost-cutting is needed as start-up costs were so high. The company will not comment.

BBC Arabic TV and Persian TV

BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman is overseeing the launch of BBC Arabic TV which will be followed by a service for Iran in the Farsi language: BBC Persian TV.

Costing £19m a year, BBC Arabic will broadcast in Arabic 12 hours a day. It's the BBC's second attempt at setting up an Arabic TV service. A previous channel closed in 1996 after just two years after airing an episode of Panorama that was critical of the Saudi government.

The BBC Arabic service is the BBC's oldest language service after English and celebrated its 70th anniversary in January.

MTV Arabia

"This is only the beginning of our ambitious plans for growth in the Middle East," Bill Roedy, MTV Networks vice chairman said at the launch of MTV Arabia last November. Plans are now well-advanced for the launch this year of Nickelodeon Arabia and, a Middle East version of Comedy Central.


Virgin Radio Middle East

Richard Branson has been personally involved in the development of Virgin Radio Dubai, which launched in January. The station is the first step in a plan to develop a portfolio of Virgin Radio stations across the Middle East.

"Virgin Radio International is now exploring opportunities with several other countries in the region, and hopes to launch more stations over the coming years," confirms Virgin Radio International chief operating officer, Mark Fisher, the Australian responsible for turning Branson's vision into radio reality.


Saatchi & Saatchi

The organisers of the Cannes International Advertising Festival stage their Middle Eastern equivalent, Dubai Lynx 2008, at the end of March. The three-day event follows the launch last year of the annual Dubai Lynx advertising awards honouring the region's best advertising talent.

Agency of the year in 2007 was Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai, responsible for successful regional campaigns for brands including Olay, Ariel, Pampers and Red Bull. The agency's executive creative director, Ed Jones, first joined Saatchis London as a copywriter in 1974.

"It's a truly international industry out here – Dubai alone is home to 150 different nationalities, and 80 per cent of the population is non-Emirati," he says. "As a result, much advertising is in the English language, but ads must be relatively straightforward so that they are easily understood by non-English speakers."

Saatchi & Saatchi launched in the Middle East in 1989, with an office in Jeddah. Since then the business has grown fast. As well as Dubai, it also has a presence in Cairo, Riyadh and Lebanon, and associate ventures in Bahrain and Kuwait.

From 1990-97, Jones was director of the global network's Middle East region, before moving to cover central and eastern Europe. In 2000, he became creative director of S&S Worldwide, thenreturned to the Middle East to take up his current role.


Time Out Middle East

Time Out's two Middle East editions are both published locally by ITP Publishing Group, which holds the Gulf licence for Time Out magazines.

Jeremy Lawrence, acting editor of Time Out Dubai, is a Brit who has worked on the magazine for more than three years. He has worked in the Gulf for 10 years as a freelance journalist. Matt Pomroy is editing Time Out Abu Dhabi, which he joined two years ago having left the UK, where his last job was as a news writer on Big Brother, writing online news stories for the BB website from unedited live footage. Time Out Abu Dhabi has a monthly circulation of 15,165.