From left: Amr Baqer of MBC Group, Ali Al Ahmad of etisalat, Rawan Al Damen of Al Jazeera TV, Mohammad Hareb, creator of the Emirati cartoon Freej, and Ali Jaber, dean of Mohammad Bin Rashid School for Communication and Managing Editor, Dubai Media Incorporated, are seen at a session at the Arab Media Outlook at Dubai Press Club. Image Credit: Abel-Karim Kallouche/XPRESS

Dubai: The media sector in the Arab region is expected to fare much better than the rest of the world in the coming years as the global economy tries to recover from the financial crisis, the authors of the Arab Media Outlook revealed yesterday.

"The global [media] industry is growing much slower than the regional industry. There is confidence here and positive expectations for 2010," said Santino Saguto, Managing Director, Middle East, for Value Partners. "Eighty-five per cent of our interviewees expressed optimism for 2020".

Saguto was speaking at the launch of the latest version of the annual Arab Media Outlook. The report, analysing prospects for the media sector between 2009 and 2013, is a joint initiative between the Dubai Press Club and Value Partners, and was launched at the press club.

While the Arab world saw one of the biggest relative drops in GDP between 2008 and 2009, with only Europe surpassing its decline, it is expected to bounce back fastest to return to being one of the world's fastest growing regions, the report has found.

Launched under the theme ‘Inspiring Local Content', the report covers 15 Arab countries, including an additional three since the release of last year's report. The study provides a comprehensive overview of the media scene in the region as compared to global markets, a country by country analysis of the media in 15 Arab nations.

"I wish the report will become a definitive resource for policy makers, media owners, media experts, students and the general public to rely upon," said Mona Al Merri, chairperson of the press club.


The report found advertising spending to have decreased by 13 per cent in the Arab region from 2008 to 2009. That is on par with the drop in North America but only two per cent more than Africa and Western Europe, and 10 per cent more than Asia/Pacific. Central and Eastern Europe saw the biggest drop in advertising revenue at 21 per cent since last year. Newspapers are expected to continue to receive the major share of advertising spending, followed by television.

While newspaper circulation in the region was found to have increased in 2009, at the peak of the financial crisis, its growth over the years is expected to be slower than that of advertisement spending on print.

Print revenue in the region has dropped from $4.17 billion (Dh15.3 billion) in 2008 to $3.69 billion between 2008 and 2009, but is expected to recover to and surpass the 2008 figures by 2011, when the global GDP is expected to rise back to 2008 levels, as per the International Monetary Fund's figures.

The launch of the report was followed by a seminar based on the theme of local content, discussing challenges to producing such content. Participants discussed the difficulty of producing content that is truly pan-Arab and can have a following throughout the region as opposed to certain countries.