Tag Archives media

News is Dead. Long live Content.

News is Dead. Long live Content.

When news is published, it’s just the beginning of the conversation, not its end.

This is what “news” is today. It’s necessarily a live conversation that informs, educates and empowers people to make better decisions.

Whether you like it or not, printed newspapers, and magazines are dead. I believe that they’re uselessly clinging to life through rusty and leaky support machines. If publications want to get off their sick beds and actually thrive, they need to think of themselves more as very technology-centric content producers than restricted news curators. They need to produce relevant content and publish it across a plethora of platforms in a variety of formats to reach a fickle and sceptical audience. Failing to adopt this business model will ensure nothing but their slow and painful demise.

Currently, none of the newspapers in Bahrain operate under this necessary business model, which is quite surprising as well as it being disturbing, as the technology is readily available to allow them to move into the content business and away from the obsolete static news business models. I daresay that money isn’t the major detriment should they choose to strategically tread that path, the real hurdle might well be the required change in publishers’ mindsets, their management methodology and style in order to fully benefit from this new business model. There is no denying that there definitely is a long way for them to go, judging by their obtuse and difficult to use websites. Entities which are generally digitised copies of their printed publication at best, save for the ability to provide moderated reader comments.

I have to ask, though, is this situation due to general lethargy, a pragmatic response to the minuscule market they operate in, absence of vision or is it due to bureaucratic restrictions that prevent them from adopting the critical change in direction which is necessary to ensure their very survival?

I note that some monthly magazines’ websites do have some video content – very little of it mind you and in mediocre quality; however, I’m unsure whether this is has been officially sanctioned or is made available by taking the oft-used and successfully implemented concept of when caught, opting to ask for forgiveness rather than originally seeking the onerous permission required to provide such a service.

Video alone is not the answer, of course. For a modern publication to thrive, it really needs to change its business model from traditional print publishing to multimedia interactive content generation and curation, as stated previously. To make this happen, the chief requirement for success is for the organisation to intrinsically add leading edge technological capabilities – either through in-house or outsourced resources – to continuously inject innovation into their Internet assets, integrate new interactive technologies and ensure that their content management system is solid yet flexible enough to respond to the immediacy of news in all of its formats, including crowd-generated and -curated content. From my observation, there isn’t a single media entity that fits within this necessary framework so far in Bahrain.

According to the Local Media Outlets list in the Ministry of Information Affairs, there are currently 10 radio stations, 6 television channels, 7 daily newspapers, 15 weekly newspapers and magazines, 17 monthly magazines and 9 electronic newspapers and magazines (Last Modified: 28-09-2014 11:38:05). Apart from the fact that the quantity of media outlets is despicably low for a country with over 1.2 million people, I believe that they’re all doomed to failure. They’re all are stuck in the past.

Strategically, to attain sustainable success for this critical industry, basic changes must take place, changes which have proven to have positively contributed to the success of the industry elsewhere: the state needs to inculcate and protect freedoms of speech as defined by the UN Charter’s Article 19, remove or at least appreciably reduce restrictions on the ability to publish physical or virtual periodicals and allow them to fairly compete in an open market.

Should these conditions occur, I’m sure that the media industry in all its forms will thrive in Bahrain and create an industry that will be match and possibly exceed those already present in the region, and innovation in the media space will sore, bringing with it much needed economic benefits.

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Media bias…

I’ve been so busy over the last couple of months that I haven’t had time to blog. I miss it, of course, but with everything that’s going on at the moment, the despondency, the collective depression, the accusations, the deceit, the denial, and the hostile environment have discouraged me from doing so. It won’t last. Like everything in life, all of those have got to end, one way or another. At some point, we – or a future generation – will look back and probably say something like: “what a bunch of morons! why couldn’t they sort their shit out in a better and faster way.”

Apart from not blogging, I just couldn’t be bothered to read the papers. I glance at headlines at the end of the day, rather than poison my whole existence with the crap that is written. I do that with almost all the local papers, but get my “real” news from foreign sources. Unfortunate, but I’ve learnt that the local press has an agenda far worse that I have initially and naively thought.

So it’s with a slightly amused grin that I read today’s headlines which could be summarized in what the illustrious GDN has printed, not a stalwart of journalism, that paper isn’t, but my parakeet enjoys messing around with it at the bottom of its cage. Anyway, here’s the bit that amused me:

The Western media has been unfair to Bahrain’s Shi’ites by making it appear that they were all against their homeland, while the truth is that very few may have been affected by calls of “Welayat Al Faqeeh” (theocracy). His Majesty King Hamad said this yesterday as he received, at Al Safriya Palace, Arab media and Press personalities taking part in the Arab Youth Media Forum. [source]

Some of the Western media might have been so, your majesty, but the real real problem is the local media. The clear hate-mongering perpetrated by the likes of the Alwatan, GDN, Daily Tribune, Akbar Alkhaleej, Alayam and even the puny Albilad have left this country and society ripped asunder and have not allowed any reconciliation to take place. It is them your Majesty, and I say this with complete humility, it is them who should be singled out for your displeasure, if not wrath, not the Western media.

I find that the only credible newspaper here is Alwasat, at least they allow differing views and contain themselves to non-sensationalism. But yes, even it sometimes falls into the trap.

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IAA dreaming?

Here’s a bit of news which does not add up:

Bahrain has been picked to host the headquarters for Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s new international Arabic news network despite months of unrest, according to the tiny Gulf kingdom’s media oversight authority.

Alwaleed’s channel, dubbed Alarab, will be based in the Bahraini capital Manama’s new Media City office complex, Sheik Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, a member of the Bahraini royal family and head of the country’s Information Affairs Authority, said in a statement late Tuesday.

The channel aims to focus “on the important shifts taking place across the Arab world, with an emphasis on freedom of speech and freedom of press,” Alwaleed said in September.[source]

The first huge question mark is that the IAA and the Ministry of Information have been a complete and utter failure at retaining such huge investments. They have chased out every single television channel which either have or wanted to establish itself in Bahrain. They have been instrumental in stifling freedoms of speech and have elevated that activity to an art form to be envied in the third world and beyond. None of the newspapers are free here and don’t get me started on the huge number of websites which have been blocked by their direct action, or if it’s not them – to give them their fair due – then it’s another arm of the government which has ordered the websites’ ban mostly through extra-judicial means. Even a service which can directly elevate the level of education in this country has been banned; try accessing the Google translation engine for instance. The end result is that this government has proven itself to be extremely hostile to any free speech.

So how can a supposed erudite, intelligent, iconic, uber-businessman who has been known to pick the right horse at the right time plonck potentially more than half a billion dollars to get such a news channel started? And how is he going to entrust the administration of his Rotana media empire to be run from a country which is and continuously has been at war with free speech?

Ok, leave that, how will the unfettered turbaned and bearded lot take to the parties, concerts and festivals which MUST be part of the deal in marketing Rotana and its products? Parliament – in its present form – and the nouvelles politiques a’la Almahmood an co will go ape-shit, and that’s putting it mildly.

Will the government actually allow such news and entertainment channels to exist and be free? I suspect that the news entity will be so curtailed that it will ultimately make the present Bahrain TV shine, and the black screens of censorship will make the other channels in the bouquet completely and utterly unwatchable. In fact, they will make test-bar screens more interesting.

The only reason I could fathom for Al-Waleed entrusting his millions to Bahrain without having iron-clad constitutional guarantees for hands-off non-molestation is that he’s in the game of losing money… and although a gambler he may be, stupid he most definitely is not.

So what gives?

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EIU: Bahrain more democratic

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In a GDN report entitled “Democracy Is Taking Root” this morning, it shows that Bahrain’s democracy has climbed fully eight ranks from 130 in 2008 to 122 this year according to an EIU report:

BAHRAIN is more democratic now than it was two years ago, according to a report by a leading research and analysis organisation.

The country climbed eight places in the Democracy Index 2010, which is compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and covers 162 countries.

Bahrain was ranked as the 122nd most democratic country in the report, up from 130 in 2008, and scored 3.49 out of 10 on the report’s democracy scale.

However, if you read the actual report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, you will notice a few things that the GDN piece chose not to highlight; the first is the actual title of the report: “Democracy Index 2010: Democracy in Retreat“. The second is that the report should have investigated as to the reason for this benevolence while they and I certainly know that happenings over the past two years especially did not do democracy nor the promised reforms any favours. The recent corruption report is just one single case in point.

They should – if they used any journalistic ethics, that is – should have highlighted that this “improvement” is because other countries in the region having regressed even more than we have and that the general trend in this region continues to be authoritarian with the vestiges of democracy being minimal at best:

The average score of countries in the region declined from an already very low 3.54 in 2008 to 3.43 in 2010, almost a point below the next lowest-scoring region, Sub-Saharan Africa. The only improvement of any note between 2008 and 2010 occurred in Kuwait, which rose by 15 places in the global rankings to 114th. Kuwait improved as its parliamentary system—the most advanced in the Gulf, although still not able to check seriously the emir’s executive power—continued to mature and press freedoms also strengthened.

One of the reasons for democracy actually NOT taking root in our countries is specifically because journalists and the media refuse to rise up and do their duties in highlighting corruption, taking the government to task, demand access to information and the inculcation of transparency.

What we actually have here, and the GDN is one of those to blame in this country, is putting advertising revenues and subscriptions first and foremost rather than the attendance to noble journalistic calling. What they do as a matter of course is blindly drum up support for corruption and shy from reporting anything which might affect their revenues rather than fight it in every way possible; hence, the propagation of paper-bag journalism. So much so that the rallying cry of these so called journalists and media organisations has become: “Do you want an article with that, sir?”.

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Media Control, Gulf Style

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I can’t get enough of WikiLeaks Cablegate, could you? It’s better than the best and more gripping than a Steven King novel. Delving into the minds of those who rule us is, well, enlightening and could actually give cause to an accelerated rise to democracy in this region. Some cables also attest that hereditary genes alone are not enough to bestow the power of imagination nor do they always aid in raising the intelligence quotient.

Regardless, in the intrigue department, I came across this cable this morning. To me, it’s pretty much symptomatic of the (so called) media industry in the Arab world. No wonder papers and other media outlets care more about cheap entertainment and the advertising dollar than investigative reporting:

The Saudi regulatory system offers the al-Saud regime a means to manipulate the nation’s print media to promote its own agenda without exercising day-to-day oversight over journalists, and Saudi journalists are free to write what they wish provided they do not criticize the ruling family or expose government corruption. In addition, most media in Saudi Arabia–print and electronic–are owned by royal family members, and accordingly self-censorship is the order of the day. In comparison to a few years ago, however, the media business in Saudi Arabia is dynamic, fueled by increased demand by Saudi and pan-Arab audiences, new licensing agreements with US and other international media, and an unprecedented level of openness to outside ideas.

Wikileaks’ Cablegate

Yes, go feast your eyes. There’s more.

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Flogging the dead horse

Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) is to get a hi-tech overhaul to boost its edge and bring it up to international standards. [source]

What? AGAIN?!

Isn’t it high time to just bury the carcass and be done with it? Shall I count the number of times this particular call was made and the amount of money spent on it to “bring it to international standards” in the past couple of decades? Jeeze, this bloody television station must be the most invested in in the history of broadcast and it’s still a completely unwatched and unwatchable station. And when it is watched, on those rare occasions, we see it being either completely unprofessional, or pouring fuel on sectarian tensions in this country.

So who benefits from these perpetual calls to flog the dead horse then?

Mo exotic “experts” most probably, and let the local companies die on the wayside because, well, because they’re local (say that last word again while pinching your nose as if you smelt something really nasty) and don’t have the necessary experience. I’m not sure how they’re supposed to ever get that experience if the wealth of the country gets syphoned off to exotic experts and their suggested foreign companies. But, that’s how the cookie crumbles I guess.

So…

“The media must take advantage of the liberties in the prosperous era of His Majesty King Hamad to promote national unity and combat wrong ideas,” he [HRH the PM] said.

I wouldn’t hold my breath your royal highness. I’m afraid – with all due respect, sir – that with the current structure and constitution of that organ, it is an unachievable goal. The events of the last couple of months alone are ample examples of their failures and are innumerable to mention here again.

You would; however, quite easily achieve that goal by shutting down the IAA including the not-so-illustrious BRTC and open up the airwaves for independent radio and television channels to be established here. If you do, I can guarantee that you will unleash such a wave of creativity which will make this country the envy of the region. We have the talent, the will and the experience to show the whole world what Bahrain and Bahrainis are really about. Just give us a chance to prove it. You won’t be sorry and you would’ve saved good money from being thrown after bad.

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Sleepless in Gaza… and Jerusalem

On March 1st — this coming Monday– the premier episode of a 90 part series, “Sleepless in Gaza…and Jerusalem” will be launched on YouTube. It will be a video diary about four young Palestinian women, Muslim and Christian, two living in Gaza and two in Arab Jerusalem/West Bank.

PINA TV Production camera crews will be covering Ashira Ramadan, a broadcast journalist based in Jerusalem; Ashira’s friend in Gaza, the documentary film maker Nagham Mohanna; Donna Maria Mattas, a 17 year-old student at the Holy Family school in Gaza who dreams of growing up to be a journalist, and Ala’ Khayo Mkari who works with Caritas in Jerusalem.

The intention of this series is neither rant nor rhetoric. It is rather an opportunity for all of us, who do not live in Gaza, occupied Arab Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, to grasp how these four young Palestinian women live out their daily lives, precisely because their lives are stories we journalists were taught almost dismissively to think of as “human interest” and almost necessarily conflict driven.

How, as human beings, these four Palestinians can also experience moments of personal and community achievement, and the warmth of friends and family life that in real life is possible even in the most difficult circumstances of siege and occupation.
Each episode runs 26 minutes and will be shot in Jerusalem/West Bank and Gaza, edited and uploaded the same day. So you will find a new sequence six days a week at www.youtube.com/SleeplessinGaza. On Friday, we all rest.

Apart from this effort and its product being very exciting for its own sake to show us life in that part of the world, from a professional point of view, I think this is the first full series totally produced for YouTube.

I think this is the last nail in the Arab TV channels coffin – yes, you too Bahrain TV, but then you’ve already been dead more than 20 years!

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