Dubai: The Saudi decision to restructure the state media and establish a new government body to regulate audiovisual broadcasters is expected to pave the way for more media to apply to transmit from inside Saudi Arabia, Saudi media officials said.
The decision to establish a media authority, which was announced a few days earlier, could also encourage Saudi-owned media houses based abroad to return home and launch operations from inside the kingdom, they added.
“Among the [approved] authority’s goals will be to offer an appropriate atmosphere to everyone interested in transmitting from inside Saudi Arabia within certain conditions,” said Abdul Rahman Al Hazza, spokesperson of the Information and Culture ministry.
While stressing the authority is “not a legal one”, Al Haza told Gulf News it would serve as “an authority to regulate and supervise the audio and visual media outlets operating from inside the Saudi Arabia, and issue the licences to radio and television stations to operate from the kingdom and offer them the necessary facilities”.
The Saudi government announced last Monday that it has approved an overhaul of the media industry. The new authority is envisaged to regulate, develop and supervise media content according to the state’s media policy.
“The authority will be an independent body in terms of finance and administration,” the cabinet said in a statement carried by the Saudi News Agency, adding that it “would have an independent annual budget. However, it would come under the Ministry of Culture and Information,” it added.
“The authority will be the responsible agency for the transmission of audio and visual media and its content,” Culture and Information Minister Abdul Aziz Khoja said explaining the cabinet decision.
“This is a big joy to all media men,” Riyad Najem, undersecretary of media affairs at the Culture and Media Affairs Ministry, said of the government decision to establish the General Authority for Audio and Visual Media.
“Surely, the impact of the establishment of this authority will be huge. There will be now a designated body to organise the audio and visual [media] transition of the private sector and allow the Saudi capital that left the kingdom to return and work from the country,” he said in a statement published in the Saudi Arabic-language newspaper Al Madinah a day after the government announcement.
Many prominent Arab satellite channels and newspapers are Saudi-owned and they are working from outside the kingdom, including London and Dubai, where a more facilities and easier procedures are offered.
Amid complaints about the lack of a proper environment for Saudi and non-Saudi television stations in Saudi Arabia, the new decisions will facilitate the arrival of needed expertise in the kingdom, Saudi officials said.
Al Hazza said that, previously, “there were no licences issued. Even if someone wanted to establish a station on horses, or poetry or sports, no licences were issued. But now with the authority, licences will be given according to certain conditions.”
The criteria for approving new media houses are still not clear and are due for discussion but Al Hazza expressed hope that the detailed mandate of the authority would be finalised and it would be established in the “near future”.