Abu Dhabi: The National Media Council on Tuesday unveiled a set of regulations for electronic media, governing all online activities including e-commerce, publishing and selling of print, video and audio material as well as advertising.
The new guidelines apply to news websites, electronic publishing outlets, and on-demand printing, including commercial activities conducted through social media within the UAE, Mansour Al Mansouri, director-general of the National Media Council, told a news conference in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.
According to the new regulations, social media influencers who promote brands or do e-commerce in the UAE will now have to get a licence from the National Media Council.
The new code of practice, however, does not apply to personal websites and bloggers.
“The regulations seek to help the UAE media sector remain on top of the rapid developments in electronic media, in addition to enriching and organising digital content, and ensuring that media material respects the religious, cultural and social values of the UAE, all the while promoting freedom of expression and constructive dialogue,” Al Mansouri said.
Al Mansouri said the new code of practice provides for balanced and responsible media content that respects the privacy of individuals, and protects the public, especially children, from negative or harmful material.
Media enterprises have three months to ensure their activities fully comply with the new guidelines.
Websites of licensed traditional media such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines are exempt and do not need to secure new licences, Al Mansouri said.
Also exempt are websites of schools, colleges and universities as well as government entities.
Companies registered in free zones shall be subject to the regulation.
Al Mansouri, however, cautioned that all electronic media activities, whether covered by the regulations or not, are necessarily subject to the principles and standards of governing media content in the country.
Al Mansouri said the new guidelines seek to enhance the contribution of electronic media to the wider publishing industry, providing legal protection for the outlets and enhancing their competitiveness, all in an effort to increase advertising spend and spur the sector’s growth as a whole.
The new regulations are part of the NMC’s plan to promote an advanced legislative and regulatory environment for the UAE media sector, keeping it abreast of all technological developments that have transformed media in recent times.
“Today, electronic media has become highly influential and widespread tool; it is imperative that we enhance its reliability. Digital media is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Middle East, especially videos, games and e-books. Regulating this sector will attract new global investments which, in turn, will improve its development and competitiveness,” Al Mansouri said.
All you need to know
What is the scope of the new electronic media regulations?
It applies to all electronic media activities carried out within the UAE, including in free zones. It covers any means of expression including writing, painting, music, photography or others that are transferable between individuals in any form, whether printed, audible or visual as well as electronic or digital means, or any other technological means.
What are its objectives?
■ Support and regulate the electronic and digital media industry.
■ Keep abreast of rapid developments in electronic media to enrich digital content.
■ Reinforce electronic media’s respect of religious, cultural and social values of the UAE and promote freedom of opinion, expression and constructive interaction.
■ Provide balanced, responsible and impartial media content that respects the privacy of individuals.
Which electronic media activities need a licence?
■ Sites used to trade, showcase and sell print, video, and audio materials.
■ Electronic publishing activities and on-call printing.
■ Specialised websites such as the electronic advertisements and news sites.
■ Any electronic activity that the NMC deems appropriate to be added.
Is a licence transferable?
No. A licence cannot be leased, managed, or given to any other person to operate, except with the NMC’s approval.
Do traditional media websites need a new licence?
No. The websites of traditional media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines) are already licensed to engage in the same activities electronically.
What is the deadline to obtain a licence?
Those engaging in electronic media activities prior to the issuance of this regulation must obtain a licence before June 1, this year.
Q&A on the electronic media regulation
Q: What is the scope of the electronic media regulation?
A: This regulation applies to all electronic media activities carried out within the UAE, including in the free zones. As per the regulation, any form of electronic media activity that is determined by the National Media Council shall be prohibited till the council approves the granting of a media licence in accordance with the laws and regulations
Q: What are the objectives of the electronic media regulation?
A: The electronic media regulation aims to:
Support the electronic and digital media industry and regulate their activities to ensure they are effective and contribute to supporting the publishing industry;
Keep abreast of the rapid developments in electronic media to enrich digital content;
Reinforce electronic media’s respect of the religious, cultural and social values of the UAE and promote freedom of opinion, expression and constructive interaction; and Provide balanced, responsible and impartial media content that respects the privacy of individuals and protects various community members against any possible negative effects.
Q: What does the term ‘electronic media’ cover?
A: It covers any means of expression including writing, painting, music, photography or others that are transferable between individuals in any form — whether printed, audible or visual as well as electronic or digital means, or any other technological means.
Q: What are the electronic media activities to be licensed?
A: The following electronic media activities require prior authorisation, in accordance with the provisions of the regulation and covering all means of social communication:
Sites used to trade, showcase and sell print, video, and audio materials;
Electronic publishing activities and on-call printing;
Specialised websites such as the electronic advertisements, news sites etc; and
Any electronic activity that the council deems appropriate to be added.
Q: What about free zones?
A: Companies registered in free zones shall be subject to the provisions of the regulation and the relevant legislations applicable in the free zones.
Q: What are the conditions that must be fulfilled by the applicant?
A: The application for the licence must be submitted to the Board with all forms prepared for this purpose, duly filled. Further:
1) The applicant should be old enough to have legal capacity; the age requirement may be exempted on a case-by-case basis;
2) The applicant should have good reputation and decent conduct;
3) The applicant should not be convicted of a crime involving a breach of honour or public trust unless he has been already rehabilitated or pardoned by the appropriate authorities;
4) The applicant should hold high academic qualification from a college, institute or an accredited university; however, he/she may be exempted from meeting such requirements;
5) The applicant shall meet the requirements regarding the licenced activity;
6) The applicant should not have any licence that has already been suspended or cancelled, or his/her company has been shut down or closed, or he/she has already been prevented from carrying out a specific media activity unless the related reasons for issuance of the decision or judgement have been remedied or removed;
7) The applicant should not have any financial dues towards the council; 8) The applicant should abide by the instructions and regulations set for carrying out media activities; and
9) Any other terms, requirements or regulations as decided by the council or as may be required by the media activity to be licensed.
Q: Is it permissible to dispose of a licence?
A: The licence shall be issued on behalf of the applicant; it cannot be waived in whole or in part and in any form, or be leased, allowed to use, invested or managed or granted permission to any other person to dispose of the activity in any manner, except after applying and obtaining the approval of the council.
Q: What about traditional media websites?
A: The websites of the traditional media (television, radio, newspapers, magazines) are licensed under the provisions of the law to engage in the same activities electronically and do not need to secure an extra licence.
Q: How soon should the person responsible for existing electronic media activities correct the situation?
A: The person responsible for electronic media activities existing prior to the issuance of this regulation must correct their situation in accordance with the provisions of this law and the instructions issued by the council for this purpose before June 1, 2018.