Audiovisual Media Entertainment in the GCC: Similarities and Differences
Table of Contents
- Introduction. 4
- Theory. 8
2.1 Theoretical Framework of Audiovisual media entertainment production impacts. 8
2.2 Literature overview / state if the art of research in “Audiovisual media entertainment production”. 18
2.3 Literature overview / state if the art of research in “small states”. 63
Political and Legal Issues. 66
Cultural Issues. 70
Impact of Religion. 75
Technological Impact 76
Key Issues in the GCC Small states. 78
- Adapted theoretical framework of audiovisual media entertainment production impacts in small states (including peculiarities of small states) 81
- Description of GCC states (histories, economies etc) 87
Historical Accounts. 87
Economic Issues. 91
Cultural Factors. 101
Legal issues. 107
Technological Issues. 108
- Adapted theoretical framework of audiovisual media entertainment production impacts in the GCC states (including peculiarities of small states) 109
- Audiovisual media entertainment production impacts in the GCC states (empirical part according to the model). 118
6.1 Comparison of the six GCC states. 119
6.2 In-depth analysis of each of the six countries. 157
Saudi Arabia. 172
The United Arab Emirates. 178
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is a political and economic alliance of six Middle East countries in which entertainment production has experienced some growth and development as these countries’ economies develop. The entertainment production industry in the GCC region, is tied to the identities and cultures of the peoples that occupy the GCC. These identities have been shaped by a complex interplay between political, cultural, and socioeconomic events in the specific regions that have to be identified as member states of the council.
This study adopts a theoretical framework that captures various trends in entertainment production of the GCC countries to decipher the economic, political, legal, cultural, and technological influences that have characterized entertainment production in the GCC. Unique among GCC states, the UAE has been known as to be a haven for creative opportunity, legal and political freedom, cultural openness, technological advances, and financial support, all of which contribute to the growth of its entertainment production. However, significant challenges still remain in that initiatives to make entertainment a national priority still lag behind. The study explores elements of economic, political, cultural, legal, and technological factors that influence audiovisual media entertainment production in GCC. The GCC has 5 small states, and as such, the study also establishes a context for examining media entertainment in small states based on the framework and also compares the phenomenon in all the six GCC states.
Keywords: entertainment production, GCC, cultural, economic, religious, political, legal, and technological opportunities and challenges, the UAE.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was established in 1981 and is a political and economic alliance of six Middle Eastern countries; Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. The purpose of this Paper is to discuss trends in the development of the entertainment production industry in GCC. Attention is given to the political, cultural, economic, and technological facets that have influenced this development.
Figure 1: Map of the GCC.
The GCC entertainment industry has experienced long-term development. This development has been influenced by the availability of supportive factors that will be explored here. The industry encompasses all forms of media entertainment including art and all other forms of entertainment that are aimed at bringing pleasure and fun to people during their leisure times. Today, the media industry (TV, radio, film industry, etc.) together with a wide range of entertainment facilities is developing at a fast pace, much affected by the forces of globalization. It has the potential of influencing the lives of people at an extraordinary scale and determining the general development of a whole nation. The smaller states of the GCC have been paying significant attention to this fact. As a result, they have handled their media in a manner that has influenced the current status of the GCC entertainment media on the global entertainment scene. The smaller states of the GCC have been experienced developments that have empowered them to make independent decisions on how they handle their entertainment media. As such, the notion that is created by the “small states” label does not hold to be true beyond geographical area coverage of these states.
The GCC media entertainment production has a high-potential of supplying satisfactory content to its audience. The member countries of the council have interesting histories through which their compositional populations have acquired a rich diversity in culture and taste for entertainment. The countries have also embarked on lucrative development plans and most of them are already experiencing some level of achievement. The need to sustain these developments is an inevitable requirement for the stability of all the GCC states. Many multidisciplinary factors come into play when this need is considered. Indeed, the social welfare and general life satisfaction levels of the GCC people is one of these factors. The entertainment industry contributes to this factor and as such, it is important for the general development of the GCC. The researcher hereby envisions a development potential that lies in the GCC media entertainment production with regard to the available resources. The GCC media is examined under a comprehensive theoretical framework to explore trends that have influenced its development to the status quo.
The entertainment industry consists of all those providing entertainment through means like radio, television, films and theater. Thus, terms like show business industry, film industry, or movie industry, generally grouped in media are in use. Media is a wide term that includes various mass communication channels to disseminate news, entertainment, education or data. It includes broadcasting, newspapers, publications, TV, radio, and various communication means.
Leisure is the free time spent away from work, engagement or any chores. On the other hand, Oxford Dictionaries (2015) defines entertainment as an activity of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment. The Free Dictionary (2015), on the other hand, terms it as the art or field of entertaining by way amusing or pleasing people through a performance or show.
2.1 Theoretical Framework of Audiovisual media entertainment production impacts.
Creativity industries have emerged as a new source of revenue in oil-based economies that are undergoing diversification attempts. This has been inspired by the obvious impact of creativity on the international marketplace. Entertainment is huge industry all over the world. Some of the richest well-known individuals are professionals in various forms of entertainment. It is also one of the industries that naturally emerge as an economy develops. However, the industry does not develop in a vacuum. It is supported and influenced by fundamental aspects that characterize the populations of these economies; culture and religion being the most conspicuous ones.
Considering all the factors, the researcher has developed a comprehensive theoretical framework aimed at explaining the diverse impacts on entertainment production. These include economic, political, legal, cultural, religion-related and technological influences in an interconnected manner as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Theoretical Framework
The core elements of the theoretical framework shall form the basis on which media entertainment production in the GCC states is examined. The theoretical framework is hereby explores as follows:
The entertainment media is affected by economic factors in many dimensions. The level of economic development of a country has been shown to relate to the ability of people to access media entertainment services. Similarly, the media has been shown to possess the potential of influencing economic performance of a country. Countries use the entertainment media to run their public relations campaigns. This is essential for promoting specific economic agenda and maintaining internal peace. Some sectors of the economy like tourism demand for rigorous advertising and promotions through the entertainment media. People also rely on the media to provide them with critical information on how they can access various opportunities in the economy. This applies to both developed and developing economies. As such, for countries to score high on equitability indicators, an active independent media is needed. An active media therefore determines the level of success that may be attained in various sectors of the economy.
There is always an economic angle to the production of entertainment media content. Media economics is an emerging discipline that focuses on the way media production is affected by the availability of resources, regulations on how these resources can be accessed, their value, how they are managed, and the ultimate value that is obtained out of them (Fog, 2013). Under this discipline, the multiple relationships between the media and economics have been unveiled. Issues such as the role of the media in influencing sections of the economy, the sources of revenue for the media and the economic justification of competitive advertising, and the role of the media in driving economic diversity have been explored. For instance, it has been shown that; the media is often indifferent on the objectivity of advertisements. It is unable to regulate the interests of advertisers (Napoli 1999). The current state of technological developments has also increased competition in production to an extent that requires producers to pay a lot of attention to ways by which they can profit from their content. The number of content producers has also increased tremendously. Such technologies as satellite transmission has increased the ability of broadcasters to transmit their content over vast distances. As a result, the local producers of entertainment in any locale have to deal with a lot more competition from various producers. The production and distribution costs of content in such forms as films has increased (Wasko, 2008). Producers have to secure their ventures by assessing the market viability of content in order to avoid making losses. They also need to attract partners and investors in order to maintain profitable operations. The availability of adequate financial resources can also enhance access to talent. The ability to pay performers, artists, producers, and other professionals determines their level of motivation. It also determines their willingness to spare adequate time towards a project, and this could directly influence the quality of the final content. The costs of producing content also varies from one country to another. This depends on the existing taxation principles, the availability of infrastructure and technology among many other factors.
Some studies on the effects of the media on economies have shown how the press can drive popular ideas with the potential of causing significant shifts in economic trends (Guo & Chauvet, 2003). The researchers have associated the global economic downturns of the 90s to public sentiment that was created by the media. The reports that were made over the performance of economies led to a decline in consumer confidence. Information that is spread through the media can also impact on the market value of stocks, lead to consumer boycotts, increase preference for various products, among many other effects. Some countries that have enacted strict media regulation laws cite the importance to ward off negative publicity that could harm their economies.
Technology has improved access to media entertainment. Media entertainment has also been shown to be a motivating factor for people to acquire various technologies. Digital distribution of content in art, music, and other forms of entertainment has led to the transformation of global markets. It has changed the perception of the “target consumer” as audiences have been integrated by communication networks. It has also improved consumer privacy in a way that can make it difficult for producers and distributers to evaluate markets. The most important effects of technology in media production are related to the increase in resource-utilization efficiency, and improvement in the distribution of content. Producers can now access low-end markets without losing much value for their content (OECD, 2005).
Each entertainment medium has experienced some level of technological advancement. As a result, the speed and quality at which content can be delivered has increased. The recent developments in media technology has especially improved the quality of content that is delivered using images, sound, and text. Audio-visual technology stands out to be the most effective blend of these technologies in the current media production. Computer technologies have enabled broadcasters to deliver video content in formats that can be displayed on a wider range of devices. As such, people have gained more convenience in accessing media content. Content sharing is another feature that technology has added to the entertainment production industry. Producers can initiate the distribution of their content by sharing it just as consumers do among themselves upon receiving the content. Computer technology has also been advanced to aid in tracking the rates at which content is shared on networked devices. This helps them to determine the level of popularity of their content. Networked devices also provide content distributers with legal means for accessing consumer privacy. When this information is required, consumer consent is needed to establish tracks that can be used to determine patterns in content consumption.
Technology has changed the traditional conceptualization of producer-consumer relationships in entertainment production. Consumers now take part in the production of content more frequently than they did before. They can record raw content on mobile computer devices and submit the raw content to media houses for processing and distribution. They can also share the content directly without having to process it. In countries that have high media censorship, consumers utilize networked technology in helping to improve access to information. This has also helped them to circumvent undesirable media regulation in some countries. However, issues of legitimacy and authenticity of information may also arise. This happens when consumers use these technologies to produce or share inappropriate information. Criminals may also use media technologies to create damaging information on persons, companies, and other institutions. As such, the regulation and monitoring of the use of media technologies has become difficult to achieve whenever large populations are involved.
Culture is a central factor in media entertainment production. It is tied to both the economic factors that influence the availability and access to entertainment content as well as the availability of a market for various forms of entertainment. The culture of people is composed of the various activities that they create and carry out frequently. It entirely depends on the availability of various resources that can facilitate these activities. Such resources vary widely and may include; availability of an adequate population size, availability of means of communication, and the availability of other support structures for practicing and maintaining the culture. Cultures thrive best in non-conflict zones and in well-performing economies. Cultures can also develop to bring faster returns than other areas of an economy. For instance, the European Union cultural and creative sector grew by 12.3% faster than its overall economic growth (European Commission, 2007). As such, countries that are able to tap the potential of their people’s cultures can experience growth in their incomes.
It has also been shown that; cultural development occurs faster in an environment where positive attitudes are prioritized in the sharing of information and creation of an identity (Brodie, 1996). Positive cultural elements are less likely to cause conflicts as people do not have to defend them against other cultures. This fact is more evident in the constant conflicts that are observed between cultures that hold onto opposing conceptualization of morals, religion, wealth, and other aspects of human livelihood. As a result cultures that share ideologies in more areas of their people’s lives tend to coexist better than those that have little in common.
The media has such an immense potential to influence cultures. This explains the tight media regulations by regimes that have been founded on extremist cultural ideologies. Similarly, the media is constantly influenced by culture. People impose their norms and values to others by seeking to share information on these norms and values. The media brings people together to create a virtual unification voice over issues in the society. As such, a biased media could create serious divisions between people of different cultures. The media also highlights issues that threaten cultures in order to sustain these cultures. This role can also be abused if the media loses objectivity in its reporting or when it fails to identify the rightful sources of influence that are affecting a given culture.
Religion is another factor that determines people’s choice of entertainment (Meyer & Moors, 2005). In the Arab world, it is even more influential to the choices that governments make for their people with regard to the forms of entertainment that can be made available to them. The entertainment media has always faced the risk of attracting criticism whenever it disregards people’s religious believes. It may also prove difficult to take care of the religious beliefs of people while broadcasting to a diverse audience. Resultantly, religion is one the most complex subjects in media freedom. Some people may not be tolerant to the beliefs of others and they would react negatively to media content that tends to promote such beliefs (Lincoln, 2003). In most cases, people use religion to conceptualize the ultimate punishment that others deserve in case they deviate from their preferred beliefs. This problem has become a global phenomenon as it is being used in the media by terrorist religious extremist groups. Media outlets in some parts of the world also have to deal with issues of censorship and self-censorship in broadcasting issues that touch on religion. Unlike culture, some religious issues are almost untouchable when it comes to criticism. Such conditions are usually set by the audience or an agency that represents their interests in a given belief.
To broadcast entertainment content peacefully in areas that are characterized by religious intolerance, the media may tend to “confess” the existing beliefs (Schulz, 2006). As such, such content may create serious controversies when it is extended to an audience that does not hold onto the beliefs in question. Even worse, if the media expresses indifference or attempts to stay neutral amid contending beliefs, each side will often feel like they’re losing the argument. This makes the issue of religion to be an even more complicated one for media broadcasters that reside in multi-religious populations.
Media freedom is a contemporary issue in the entertainment industry. Laws exist in every country to influence the ability of the media to operate, how the media operates, what it produces, and how the produced content is distributed to the consumers. In some countries, these laws are designed to create a free or independent media. Other countries design these laws in a way that will limit the various freedoms of the media. The needs of a country with regards to media freedom depend on many factors. The most common factor is the interests of the government with regard to media freedom (Skjerdal, 2010). Developments that have been achieved in the area of press freedom have led to recommendations suggesting that; a free media is good for all nations. Fundamentally, the freedom of expression is an undeniable human right and the recommendations are based on this precinct. Nations that fail to allow a free media to thrive are likely to be already having other human rights violations going on in their interior. In some cases, countries impose restrictions on media freedoms in order to take a political stand that opposes that of a rival nation.
The amount of content that is obtained by consumers from local media outlets and that which they can access from international media outlets may indicate the level of freedom that is being experienced by their local media. Some governments focus on censoring both local and international sources of information. Other governments may censor just one of them, while others may not censor any of them. Political control has come to be the most popular reason of media censorship. The events of the Arab spring presented an exemplary test to various GCC governments on just how much censorship they can impose on their media to ward off foreign political ideologies.
2.2 Literature overview / state if the art of research in “Audiovisual media entertainment production”.
Globalization and rapid technological developments have also made the entertainment industry to occupy a significant position in the daily lives of people. Information if flowing at a faster rate than it did, and people are also exploiting entertainment platforms to voice their opinions on various issues that affect their countries. As such, politics and entertainment have become inseparable in a way that makes some countries to reconsider their policies with regard to media freedoms. This leads to the legal aspects that affect the media entertainment production in various countries. This close association between the economy of a country, people’s culture and religious beliefs, technology, and politics forms the theoretical framework for this paper.
Research evidence suggests that creative industry development has undergone a series of changes and developments. The creative industry has now become commercialized, art and creativity is inseparably connected with commerce, and these are increasingly subject to the impact of technology, culture, politics, and legal frameworks of the states concerned as well as economy. As Deuze (2007) points out, the creative industry-related research is not just confined to analyzing how consumers of entertainment content receive it but is extended to positioning media production in the contexts of political economy. The creative industry research is focused on the ways in which media industries reinforce people’s social identities as producers and consumers of media contents, and the responses of consumers revealing the resistance to, or enforcement of power relationships.
Townley, Beech, and McKinlay (2009) investigated the issues concerning creative industries and realized that they have particular significance in the political economy. They concluded that the management in creative industries should pay attention not only to the production issues but also to the role of consumption. They recommend that the intellectual, social and cultural capital embodied in the field should be researched.
Jones, Comfort, Eastwood, and Hillier (2004) conducted similar research and grouped cultural, commercial, and industrial variables to characterize the notion of creative industry. They also recognized the role that the government plays in the promotion of creative industries, and emphasized its positive contribution to the economic development and growth of the state. The key idea they pursued in their study was to pay more attention to the management challenges, support, and promotion initiatives that should be developed in theory and practice to strengthen and enforce the position of creative industry in the economic profile of any state.
Though research on entertainment industry has considerably intensified, there are still major gaps and inconsistencies in the theoretical framework of considering the creative industry. Altmeppen, Lantzsch, and Will (2007) indicated in their study that there is little knowledge on entertainment acquisition and production, specifically in the international format trade, though the commercial value of this field is indeed high. The researchers defined format trade as the process including the stages of creating, distributing, producing, reproducing, and broadcasting various media entertainment programs. Altmeppen et al. (2007) researched the ways in which various creative industry stakeholders create the flowing organizational networks and found that the situational requirements and stages of the format trade process are the key variables determining different organizational structures.
Fröhlich (2007) presented the findings on the comparison of television entertainment production in Germany and the UK. By means of applying the Agency-Theory, the author explored the nature of relationships between broadcasters and production companies, and the nature of dominance in these relationships. Fröhlich (2007) paid special attention to the impact these institutions had on the innovativeness in the creative industries of Germany and the UK. The research findings provide a data-rich synthesis of theory and practice of creative industries’ functioning principles, existing hierarchy, and the modes of relationships in them.
As one can see, the creative industry and the entertainment production mechanisms are undergoing fundamental changes in the technological perspective as well. The current period of technological change and innovation unavoidably poses a series of constraints on the creative industry, making it to keep pace with the latest technologies and discoveries. As Cunningham, Cutler, Hearn, Ryan, and Keane (2004) opine, an innovation agenda should be set for the creative industry to remain topical as demanded by sophisticated consumers. This innovation agenda is likely to open new dynamic and central policy territory as in the field of science, engineering, and technology, and to help creative industry research develop. The authors also saw the path for creative industry’s innovation in the focus on the “alignment of the existing policy regimes with digital content industries” (Cunningham et al., 2004, p. 2). Creative industry development in any state should be stimulated, which can be possible by promoting the unity of action by cultural institutions, universities, and creative industries.
The present research is concerned with entertainment production industries in small states and the exploration of challenges GCC states (and the UAE in particular) experience with its establishment and development. The entertainment production industry in small states will be analyzed with the help of this framework. The GCC states’ impacts and legal contexts of the UAE entertainment production industry will also be discussed
Research in media entertainment production trends in various countries has been on-going for decades. This area forms a fundamental area of the creative industries, which have been growing at a fast rate in the modern world. Countries have been creating various policies to support the growth of this industry. The industry is heavily supplied by cultural elements of populations. As such the European Commission is one of international organizations that have embarked on using it to fast-track development in its member states (European Commission, 2007). The impact of entertainment has also been found to have far-reaching effects in transforming cultures. It influences people’s perceptions of their world, their beliefs, and their consumption patterns for various goods and services. Technology has impacted heavily on this industry. Telecommunication and multimedia technologies have impacted on the ability of people to access, share, and change the types of entertainment content in the industry. In particular, the emergence of audio-visual technologies has influential the industry to an extremely large extent. People can simulate real-life entertainment or retrieve such entertainment on various platforms that allow for the integration of video and audio elements of entertainment.
Research in audiovisual media entertainment production has mainly focused on the essential aspects of content, its formats, emergent technologies, and trends in the cultural and sociopolitical worlds that are changing the media entertainment production ecology. Audiovisual media entertainment production fundamentally deals with content in form of images and sound. As such audiovisual media production has presented a wide area for potential research but this opportunity is rarely exploited. Researchers have tended to sway away from employing robust analytical techniques when exploring the issue of audiovisual media (Prosser, 1998). This is exacerbated by a culture of overlooking the role of audiovisual methods in other fields of research. Text and audio have been able to attain a high penetration in entertainment as a result of them being adopted as basic and fundamental means of communication for a long time. However, audiovisual media has been around long enough to be embraced as a fundamental method for presenting data and communicating in various realms. Nevertheless, research finds audiovisual media entertainment production to have caused major societal changes and shifts in cultures. It has also impacted media economics and given rise to the rise of full-fledged industries such as film, television, video gaming, among other industries.
Producers and researchers in audiovisual media production agree that technology and production tools have evolved fast and they influence the content that can be produced, how it is distributed and how consumers receive it. This has created a change in the way the production process is managed and effected. The roles of professionals are also being redefined (Jensen, 2008). The most common distribution of responsibilities that is agreed upon by researchers and practitioners include production management, production directing, screenwriting, cinematography, audio recording, lighting, costume and makeover, art and design, post-production roles, and usability management interactive audiovisual media.
In audiovisual media production, the producer is tasked with initiating, supervising, coordinating, and controlling key functions in the production process. These often includes the negotiation of contracts with other players, sourcing for funding, and hiring top professionals to take up responsibilities in various departments. The producer is always expected to foresee the whole project from the planning phases to their completion.
Directing audiovisual media production involves managing the content in order to ensure that it reflects creativity and that it is aligned to a desired flow of the plot, guiding performers, selecting suitable sceneries for the production, and ensuring that cameras, lights, audio resources, and timers are positioned and used appropriately. As such, the director is tasked with very critical elements of the production and the quality of directing will often reflect in the quality of content that is produced.
Screenwriting is an element of audiovisual production that has received a lot of attention in research on audiovisual media entertainment production. In essence, screenwriting involves the exploring the details of the story and assembling it for delivery in the format that is required by producers. As such, screenwriters take a concept or an event and transform it into a suitable screenplay. Currently, research on screenwriting is focused on various issues. First, researchers are exploring whether there are clear career patterns for screenwriters. This is in relation to the upsurge in the numbers of freelance screenwriters and the paralleled increase in the quality and quantities of audiovisual media content. It has become easier for producers to get good scripts from people that do not necessarily have a career in media production. Research is therefore being focused on encouraging novices to write and giving them a platform where their scripts can be compared to those of professional screenwriters. Screenplays are also being studied as creative and industrial artifacts that link histories of production modes to the available representation modes. This is thought to be of great significance to media economics. It allows researcher to study the various labor resources that are employed in production and determine how these resources can be organized to optimize the quality of content that is produced. They are also exploring standards and formats of narratives a well as styles that are employed by screenwriters. All this is done in attempt to identify the suitable structures that can be endorsed for various productions and increase available knowledge on how more audiovisual methods can be unveiled and used in screening new ideas. This also opens up a new area of research on script development regimes, trajectories, and formats. Researchers are examining why these elements are changing so fast and why all production systems have to keep on adapting to new formats.
Researchers are also examining the authority and authorship of audiovisual production. In particular, the organization of labor and whether it reflects any known elements of conventional organization. Issues of control and influence over ideas among contributors in multi-authored screenplays are also being examined to see whether they affect the quality of content that is produced. Researchers also seek to understand the power imbalances between screenwriters and producers, directors, and other senior players in media production. These often revolve around issues of credit for the content that they produce. However, there is no doubt to the fact that their roles are important in the production process; especially for big projects in audiovisual media entertainment production such as films. Issues of power imbalances and tussles over credit for media content often result from the external social and political environment that surrounds the production process. Sometimes key personnel may differ on issues related to culture and religion, which affects the final content that is produced. In the Arab world, for instance, Islam has gained a deep rooting in most people’s belief systems, and as such, producers expect media content to avoid sensitive issues that may indicate disregard for people’s beliefs. The same standards apply to some political issues that may lead to censorship of the content that is produced. As such, when the key personnel in production take different stands towards such issues, producers and directors may have an upper hand in deciding the direction that is to be followed. However, screenwriters have a significant amount of authority in being able to embed some elements of culture and religion in the script, and to do so in a manner that would make their inclusion in the final content to be almost inevitable. Researchers therefore examine these power imbalances in the production process.
Screenwriting is being transformed by new methods that have been researched on and proven as to be effective for delivering content. They include interactive storytelling, pre-visualization, and the use of screenwriting software. These developments are changing the structure of conventional production by changing the flow of activities and assignment of roles to key professionals. Some of these changes are meant to help to adopt production to changes in technology and in consumer tastes.
The most informative fields of research in audiovisual media entertainment production have been on the fundamental elements of the content, how it is tailored for consumers, and how it is taken up by the final consumer. Current technological tools allow researchers to understand how audiovisual content diffuses into these realms. Nasoz and Lisetti (2002) explored how human emotions are captured in productions and embedded within the content in a manner that creates agents that humans can relate to through humor, fear, anger, and other emotions. The content that is produced this way is popular in various forms of media entertainment such as film, Video-on-Demand services, freelance video production on such platforms as YouTube, and other forms of production. Viral videos are a perfect depiction of how much success is achieved by productions that use this system. Cross-cultural studies that were conducted by some researchers such as Ekman (1971) also revealed that humans perceive some common emotions that are associated with certain facial expressions based on these expressions and that there are no differences across cultures. This makes it possible for media producers to access a wide base of audience through content that captures emotions across cultures. Producers are also employing this system by imitating a wide range interpersonal interactions that occur in the audiences’ daily lives. This enables them to build contexts for the content that is produced in a manner that appeals to the consumer.
Research has also been focused on the challenges that are posed to audiovisual media production of content that responds to the basic human emotions (Chen et al., 2007). The main problem has been to simulate activities that do not reflect deliberate behavior in what can be understood as to be a move towards reality simulation. As such, research on the simulation of spontaneity has yielded positive results in increasing the capacities of producers for simulating content that audiences are able to relate to with more ease. The problem of “lack of spontaneity” is a key problem that faces underdeveloped productions. Performers go through phases of adapting their work to the tastes of consumers, and eventually, they have to embrace spontaneity in order for their performances to remain relevant. When spontaneity is not embraced, audiences begin to predict the performers’ moves, and as such; the produced content loses taste with time. As such, research on spontaneous affective behavior was inevitable as producers sought to solve the underlying problem of how to consistently embed spontaneity in audiovisual media content. It has been found that; human agent performances alone cannot generate adequate spontaneity for media entertainment (Fischer et al., 2003). Resultantly, producers of audiovisual media often face the need to solve challenges related to such environmental elements as lighting and auditory noise in order to generate adequate spontaneity. Lighting, background noise, and the appearance of objects in the environment are thus utilized in enhancing the aspect of spontaneity in audio-visual media productions.
.Pantic and Maat (2006) also explored how common human behavioral patterns are captured in the data that is used in the customization of audiovisual media content. In this area of research, multisensory data is gathered and analyzed to decipher the most common patterns in human behavior. Multimedia systems are developed from this data and supplied either to producers or users with the aim of enhancing the ultimate experience that is obtained from audiovisual media content. Further research on enhancing the quality of audiovisual media content has indicated that; improving client access to media and obtaining feedback from the consumers is important for enhancing the quality of production (Plantinga, 1997). This touches on issues of media freedom and political issues related to censorship of content and regulation of production by media laws. These issues are influential t media entertainment production in the GCC and the entire Arab world. Tight government regulations over the type of audiovisual media content that can be relayed to the public often makes it necessary for producers to exercise self-censorship. It largely affects media production of entertainment content that is based on non-fiction.
The high impact that audiovisual media has on the entire mass media has prompted researchers to examine the flow of information through audiovisual channels and its impact on various sectors. Various parties have been deciphered as to be involved in this flow, namely and their roles include advocacy, communication), receiver), creating orientation, and feedback (Westley & MacLean 1955). Film, television, the internet, and social networks are the main forms of mass media that utilize audiovisual forms of content. Researchers have also identified the direct and indirect economic impacts of this forms of media. They influence performance in key areas through advertising and influencing spending on goods and services, creating an impact on politics and voting patterns, creating avenues through which government policy can be implemented, influencing the behaviors of people and therefore influencing the perception of reality, influencing social behavior, changing cultures and creating social norms among many other effects (McGuire, 1989).
The most basic and the most popular segments of the entertainment industry are TV and motion pictures production. Gray (2008) emphasized that a discussion of TV entertainment is usually related to analysis of programs, segments, and channels that amuse and enlighten people. Depending on the goals, the TV entertainment industry can be divided into entertainment programming, news, documentaries, and educational programming, and the wide category of advertisements. Gray (2008) also opined that TV entertainment is a socially constructed phenomenon due to the fundamental division between what people must do during work time, and what they want to do during their free time. Bryant and Vorderer (2006) gave it a psychological touch indicating that people have intrinsic motivation for entertainment when resorting to watching TV, but get nothing real in contrast to other motivational actions such as eating, sleeping, or sexual intercourse.
Motion pictures emerged at the beginning of the 1910s and firmly grasped the audience attention. The specific appeal of the TV entertainment industry is in its being the first major form of mass entertainment after theater, art, and books (Bakker, 2003, p. 2):
Motion pictures industrialized spectator entertainment by automating it, standardizing its quality and transforming it into a tradable product. They merged the freshly integrated national entertainment markets into an international one. Performers from countries far away from each other now started to compete for the audience’s attention, no longer in one particular city or country where they happened to be, but in every city, every village.
Thus, as Bakker (2003) implies, the stage of TV entertainment’s internationalization evolved into the globalized TV network. Despite the national authenticity and isolation observed in the middle of the 20th century, it has proved to be one of the first subjects of globalization, with the transfer of formats, ideas, and TV show brands across the national borders (Chalaby, 2011; Moran, 1998).
Moran (1998) conducted extensive research on format translations alongside cultural adaptations that, in the researcher’s opinion, even resulted in the loss of knowledge about the country of origin. Some popular programs were intentionally created with efforts to erase the national boundaries, such as concealing the local dialect and avoiding specific cultural attributes; these contributed to such programs’ becoming internationally recognized and favored. The key idea of Moran (1998) is that some formats are transferrable, and at times, under the conditions of proper cultural adaptation, they may become more successful in countries of transfer than they did in their countries of origin.
According to Chalaby (2011), the format trade has resulted in the fundamental evolution of the TV industry. With a slow start in the 1950s, the format trade industry has become a multi-billion dollars commercial undertaking, and the majority of shows and programs at present are only local adaptations of more universal formats traded across the world. Universally recognized formatted brands exist in all TV genres and have been adapted in virtually every state. Shows as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Big Brother, Idols, etc. have gained universal recognition, and this turned the format trading industry into a lucrative global business. These trends show the development of the entertainment industry, and give rise to the emergence of an independent production sector within the creative industry of modernity (Chalaby, 2011). It does seem that this region can just manage about fifty TV channels (Flanagan, 2013).
The film business or movie production includes technological as well as commercial institutions involved in production: these include film creation organizations, film studios, cinematography, film preparation, postproduction, screenwriting, preproduction, film festivals, dissemination; and performing artists, film directors and other film crew staff (Starr, 2004). In spite of the fact that the cost of making motion pictures leads film producers to think of creating production companies, developments in cheaper film making and opportunities to get capital from outside the film business have permitted autonomous film production to develop.
The origin of the first film dates back to The Story of the Kelly Gang, a silent Australian film that ran consistently for 80 minutes. By early 1910s, the film business had developed well and the American film production companies began moving from New York and New Jersey to California due to the better climate and longer days. On a different note, there was a need for separation of Southern California from New Jersey, making it impossible for Thomas Edison to apply his film patents (Cousins, 2006).
India is the biggest producer of movies on the planet; in 2009, it produced 2,961 movies including 1,288 feature movies. Indian film industry is multi-lingual and second biggest as far as income is concerned. Indian movies have been picking up space and expanding in the entire world, with Tamil and Telegu movies being also popular abroad (Moti, Gokulsing, Wimal, 2004). The United States has the most established film commercial ventures and Hollywood is the center of its film industry. The Walt Disney Company which controls many companies like Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and the Pixar Animation Studios, is situated in Southern California. And so is Sony Pictures which has its headquarters in Tokyo, Japan (Jansson, 2002).
Entertainment production has gradually become the universal field of activity without any geographical boundaries due to the globalization processes as well as the development of instant communication and other IT techniques. Yet there is a big difference in the media landscapes of large and small countries in the world. The creative industry and media production such as music, film, and TV, have become traditionally associated with large advanced economies such as the USA and large European countries. Therefore, small states are often unable to compete with the large-scale industry giants and are forced to adopt internationally developed and recognized entertainment content instead of creating authentic forms thereof (Balčytienė & Juraitė, 2009).
In addition to market size, numerous pressures on the entertainment industry should be considered to identify the challenges faced by small states. The industries involving culture have proven to be highly vulnerable to restrictions of linguistic and financial pressures, which means that even under the condition of equal costs for media production in large and small states, the latter have much fewer stakeholders able and willing to invest in the production of media content (Balčytienė & Juraitė, 2009).
Modern entertainment production industry has many factors that impinge on it beside the social and cultural factors. There is much research evidence on the intense commercialization of entertainment industry within the past half a century, which implies that the media production of any country has a wide bearing on the economic growth and well-being of any country. Andersson and Andersson (2006) explored the economics of entertainment industry and concluded that “the goods from artistic and entertainment activities make up a subset of all economic goods and services” (p. 1). From the market perspective, if the customers pay a good price for a product offered by the entertainment industry, the latter will be continuously sustained in the market as an available good or service. Cultural products differ from other products since they embody both improvised and planned creativity, generate new knowledge, and possess the ability to surprise, thus making it beneficial and profitable in economic terms.
The peculiarities of economic cooperation and stimulation of small creative firms’ development are another issue of concern. Chaston (2008) researched the standard support service intervention model applied to the provision of training programs for stimulation of business growth for small creative industry firms. After a survey in the southwestern part of the UK, Chaston (2008) inferred that majority of firms pursued their creative aspirations, but very few showed interest in training schemes for business performance enhancement. The findings of Chaston (2008) imply that the public sector expenditures on support schemes for stimulating economic growth in the small business sector can be avoided and a more cost-effective approach can be adopted. Chaston (2008) challenged the need to offer business training to firms and suggested the need for a radical revision of state growth stimulation strategies for feasible assistance to creative industry sector development,
The economic context in which entertainment production companies function produces an inevitable economic impact on their activities. Among the challenges faced by the market participants in the creative industries, Dempster (2006) emphasized the adverse effect of uncertainty on entrepreneurial performance. The author considered the UK theater industry; the variables within the framework of research included the demand uncertainty, audience composition, critical acclaim, and media coverage. The research of Dempster (2007) highlighted the need to consider these variables and to determine ways in which they enter the complex interrelation and mutual influence. The researcher illustrated the key points by showing how entrepreneurs used the multi-staged production process for the sake of undertaking pilot testing of their entertainment product.
Sepstrup’s (1990) analysis found the need to separate cultural and social consequences of media content choice from the economic consequences and motives, thus favoring national broadcasting for fostering national awareness and identity in contrast to the higher revenues offered by commercial programming from overseas. Sepstrup (1990) suggested that Western European countries should be researched separately, not as a collective block of countries since the differences among them are considerable. Finally, Sepstrup (1990) recognized the path towards media diversification and stimulation of local programming in the combination of policies on the limitations upon UK and UK programming imports and the design of a series of national subsidies to stimulate the development of national television productions.
The conclusions of Sepstrup (1990) found further support in a variety of works on the national broadcasting systems’ support and the need to take centralized action to support national media producers together with finding the proper balance of national and international content broadcasting to ensure media diversification. Balčytienė and Juraitė (2009) researched this issue in the Baltic states and assumed that the economic and journalistic changes in Lithuania and other Baltic countries are the key variables determining the change in the media landscape in this geographic region. Such factors as liberalization of the media and the gradual transition from the state-funded to the market-funded models of media functioning are found to make Baltic States’ media landscape highly vulnerable to market mechanisms. The authors concluded that at present, the media landscape is dominated by entertainment content and soft programming as contrasted to informational and analytical programs (Balčytienė & Juraitė, 2009).
Entertainment industry and media industry are synonymous in the present context of discussion, since they both encompass a wide range of media sources. Moreover, the media industry’s role in the economic profile of the country has also been paid increasing attention, with its high commercial value and potential being repeatedly emphasized in the context of the gradual move towards media liberalization and commercialization in the era of globalization. Hence, from the economic perspective, the issue of market size is considered the most influential factor affecting state policies regarding their media industries (Balčytienė & Juraitė, 2009).
The above effects depict how powerful audiovisual media entertainment can be when it comes to influencing the entire society. Resultantly, researchers are examining the issue of whether the media can be effective in setting its agendas. This is known to be effective in spurring development in various sections of the society and various sectors of the economy. The media is capable of to cover issues repeatedly in a manner that influences public perceptions. As such, proper coverage of accurate facts and setting a mood for people to act in the right direction is possible. The power of audiovisual media, in particular; can be harnessed to fast-track these developments. It brings forth powerful interactive tools that influence people’s emotions and perception of reality. As such, it can be used against negative political and social campaigns, and to educate people on the importance of making informed decisions. Some research has been focused on the effects that the media can have on politics (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). The personal traits that the media emphasizes on when analyzing differences between political aspirants creates an immense impact on voter perceptions. The importance of having an impartial media to dissect these differences and set a correct agenda is direly needed for democracies to thrive. Normally, the media in the Gulf region is heavily influenced by political powers. This mainly results from the fact that political figures have significant control over the media, and as such; they are able to access powerful resources provided in audiovisual media for their own use. Having a media that is independent from such forces can improve the power that audiovisual media production has on influencing publics.
Audiovisual media productions have been able to draw attention to common trends in the society and influence equitability of representation for various groups in sociocultural development. The media has also led to low public attention over some issues in what is categorized as “priming” of media agendas. When media agenda-setting is evaluated, some of the most positive outcomes have been realized through representation of minorities in sporting events, and reducing the consumption of harmful products. Women have been awarded prime focus in the effort to offset gender imbalances in various careers. Audiovisual production has been able to show women in various professions such as news anchoring, soccer, boxing, in the military, among other professions. This has helped to change perceptions and cultural norms that led to segregation against women. Furthermore, the media has increased the representation of other minorities in various fields such as blacks in the film industry, people with disabilities in ports, among other groups. Issues of climate change are also captured in audiovisual representations and dramatized in a way that creates awareness. People are able to see the impacts of the phenomenon in other parts of the world, and to perceive this reality as it unfolds before them on screens. These are examples of how audiovisual media production capitalizes on perception to shape trends in the society and influence equitability of representation for various groups in sociocultural development.
Researchers are also examining how virtual worlds that are created in audiovisual media entertainment shape people’s perceived worldviews. The media is able to use these productions in creating a common or unified worldview for the audience. This is achieved through the creation of common values and the assignment of common roles to various groups in the society, trend that has been on-going for many decades (Gross et al., 1980). Researchers have realized that; the media finds a way of conveying information to audiences in a way that polarizes issues because people enjoy taking sides in order to create a belong for themselves in their perceived worlds (Teoh & Singh, 2000). This gives audiovisual media an immense potential for driving trends in consumption and hence in macroeconomic dynamics where trends in consumption determine the rate at which economies can grow or contract (Minehart, Rabin & Bowman, 1999). The element is also employed in cultivating leadership by covering issues of governance in a way that dramatizes occurrences to emphasize realities and draw the attention of the public towards these issues. Similarly public misconduct that is captured in audiovisual recordings such as CCTV is also used to draw attention to such issues as crime and immorality.
In the recent years, audiovisual media has been used extensively in focusing on the ills and atrocities that are committed in the society. Films have focused on wars and epidemics. Significant focus has also been given to corruption, propaganda, and materialism by television and internet media. David Lyon (2007) proposed that; highlighting negative news is the core function of the media. However, sometime the media causes panic by overemphasizing the dysfunctions that exist in various systems with less focus being awarded to possible solutions. This can lead to the spread of a sense of pessimism and affect the performance of social systems in various sectors. For instance, when market reports are conveyed in a way that indicates a possible fall in some stocks and the information emphasized in a way that makes sit seem close to being certain, people begin to make real shifts in investments against the highlighted stocks. This has been highlighted research on the impact of the media over economics. Negative reporting can decrease consumer confidence in some products and services. During past economic recessions, television casts of the analyses of some economists led to significant declines in spending and more restraint towards various investments. This also affected incomes and employment rates.
Several production studies have emphasized on industrial frameworks and production processes in film and television (Caldwell et al., 2009; Jenkins, 2008; Everett & Caldwell, 2003). Significant focus has also been awarded the wider sectors of media economics and distribution of content. The impact of industrial processes and standards on creativity has affected the type and quality of content that is produced. These processes and standards play a double-faced role in influencing the availability of talent and creativity in production. One side of it is that; raw talent is sharpened as novice performers are introduced to massive streams of already-existing ideas. This also helps producers to find it easier to measure performance on various levels. On the other hand, the processes lock out talent and ideas that do not conform to the norm. Moreover, hierarchical structures that have been created make it difficult for some performers to penetrate into the industry or access support from key players in production. They also open up loopholes for manipulation and unfair competition; especially when opportunities are distributed based on proximity to closely-knit professional circles and families. This has also shaped how brands are created and perceived in the industry. Producers strive to associate their content with well-established performers and famous productions in the industry. For companies that are locally-based outside the US, the UK, and other regions where media production is still in developmental phases (like the GCC), this structure makes some sections of the global audience to become inaccessible. It also stagnates the careers of talented performers that are tied to small companies. The processes also impacts on how fans participate in enhancing the quality of productions. The feedback that they give is somehow pre-determined by factors that are not related to the quality of content like the reputation of the producer and profile of performers. Producers also rely on these inclinations to draw attention to the content that they are preparing. In doing so, ready content from less affluent sources is denied attention.
Online audiovisual media platforms have helped to offset some of the imbalances mentioned above. The social aspect that they add to the marketing and distribution of media content helps to break some of the barriers that had been placed for new entrants and unconventional ideas that are pushing their way into the industry. It has also broken down the competition to allow for individual performers to deal with challenges in the market compatibility of their content or create new markets for new ideas. This helps producers to focus on nurturing talent and reduce barriers for newer entries. Crowdsourcing of ideas is also being embraced in some productions. This involves the piecing together of a unique idea from multiple pieces of ideas contributed by many people who have an interest in related topics. Content that is produced this way has the potential of appealing to masses. It also faces the risk of becoming irrelevant if the final idea is not constructed well or if the constituent ideas are mainly incompatible. Nevertheless, it provides immense resources to both freelance filmmakers and established producers. It also helps to draw consumers into the production process in a way that avails more information to producers on such issues as consumer tastes, preferences, culture, and other traits that may determine the trend of future productions.
One form of audiovisual media entertainment production that has immensely benefited from milder forms of crowdsourcing is documentary film. Producers rely on multiple sources of sequential ideas on a given phenomenon such as expert opinion, multiple eye-witness accounts, and independent cinematographers. This enables producers to simulate realities on extensively detailed issues and on events that occurred in the past or on phenomena that are distributed over vast geographical areas. Nichols (2009) studied the nature of reality that is created in documentary films by focusing on how images are used to construct sequences of events. The role of images comes out as to be key to the depiction of actual realities or intended perceptions in these films. Philosophical arguments that are made over these realities focus on how audiovisual media capitalizes on other elements such as persuasion and viewer engagement. These elements are utilized extensively by documentary filmmakers who seek to push a desired agenda into publics. Viewer engagement is also used for more objective purposes to add flavor and substance to the films. This element makes documentary filmmaking to be widely accommodative to a wide range of concept ideas and to encourage objectivity in production. It has also enabled producers to venture into non-fiction filming in a way that offers room for exploring issues on governance, politics, societal norms, morality, environmental conservation, and life in general.
Research has also attempted to dissect issues of contention with regard to how producers of audiovisual media content influence the diffusion of knowledge among audiences. Producers can rely on forms of creative arts that are capable of generating content that is based on nonfiction or focus on performances that are grounded on fiction. Producers are also able to blend both fiction and nonfiction in order to create more complex forms of content. Various philosophical arguments have been explored in research on how fiction and nonfiction differ in transferring knowledge to viewers (Plantinga, 1997). The core issues that arise include; the inclusion of elements of persuasion that influence cognition, the creation of context that favors perception of certain meanings, and the ability of creators to negotiate their positions over certain social issues. Persuasive elements that influence cognition are widely used in both fiction and nonfiction filmmaking. This stems from the fact that; persuasion has been used extensively in performing arts for many centuries. As such, it has become embedded in media production in a way that makes it inevitable for producers to use them. Elements of persuasion are also an important part of marketing content. Producers seek to convince the consumers that the content is worth their time by highlighting issues that they can relate to. This application is not necessarily abused in all media production. In some productions, it comes in form of humor or sarcasm. Other elements of speech and sound are also used to draw the attention of consumers to the content. Producers also build context for issues and events in order to create intended meanings and simulate onscreen realities. Building context may be one of the powerful techniques for building unique content. Viewers may examine the context of a plot by making comparisons to other creations that they have encountered in the media. As such, producers are usually faced with the task of getting to decide on whether scripts allow for creating content that can be fitted within desired contexts or not.
Research on audiovisual media entertainment production has also been focused on how technology has impacted on the evolution of several elements of this production and the consumption of the produced content. In particular; issues of content formatting and delivery efficiency have been explored to substantial lengths (Jensen, 2008). Digital technology is the center of focus for almost all research that explores these issues. The introduction of satellite broadcasting enhanced both the quality of content and the proliferation of television to most parts of the world. Multiplex channels and the world-wide-web also enhanced delivery and changed the game by making it cheaper for broadcasters to deliver content over vast geographical areas. These developments also made it necessary for media productions to embrace the need to address differences in tastes and cultures. This came with stiffer competition as well as diversity in talents as non-European and non-American performers rose to the global stage. It has also created competition for local producers who are faced with the need to beat the quality of content that is relayed from experienced foreign producers. Consumers have also benefited from the inflow of information on issues that are not openly discussed within some societies due to media censorship and conservative approaches towards these issues. This has had an immense impact on some issues in the political, social, and religious realms. Online video platforms have also infiltrated into social media making the sharing of audiovisual media content to become embedded into people’s lives. Moreover, the speed of delivery for content that is sharable on social media is enhanced by the direct efforts of individuals who share this content with their peers. This reduces the cost of delivery for the producers and distributors. The sharing of content also provides information on patterns of consumer tastes and preferences for certain content.
On an industrial production level, development in production technologies has transformed the production process as well as the post-production processes in filming and broadcasting of audiovisual content. Some level of automation has been achieved in some processes leading to a reduction in the amount of manpower that is needed for these processes. The potential for creating high-quality and highly-detailed content has also increased. This has led to the rise of more professional roles in such fields as video editing, animation, and other areas where the quality of content relies on mastery of the involved technologies. The increase in market coverage for digital content has also made broadcasters to give significant focus to commercialization of the links that they create among consumers using their content. As such, this has created a steady revenue stream for funding bigger projects and expanding the scope of content that can be produced (Jensen, 2008). Sports entertainment in audiovisual media has also benefited immensely from these developments. The popularity of some sports has increased significantly as more people get to learn about these sports. Sports channels are among the most-viewed channels in audiovisual media entertainment. Broadcasters have benefited from high speeds offered by satellite technologies as well as the internet. Newer technologies have also boosted the power of recording equipment and reduced the cost of transmission. Access to multiple simultaneous live events is also made possible by newer broadcasting formats and viewers have gained the flexibility for switching from one event to the other. They also have convenience with regard to the availability of content on solid memory devices embedded in servers and on personal receiver devices. As such, viewers can change viewing times without missing on content that has already been broadcasted.
As the use of entertainment media technologies increases, the GCC has experienced the emergence of Content Delivery Networks. These are companies that are dedicated to offering content to end users over networks. They invest in a wide range of technologies including servers, routing devices, and software for distributing content to consumers over the internet. These agencies offer efficiency by reducing or eliminating interruptions during streaming, ensuring that the quality of content is preserved, and eliminating downtimes, among other services. They also use web analytics to determine and predict user behavior. As such, they can prepare content in advance for delivery to users based on the results of web analytics. This technique has proved to be very useful for media companies as it enables them to gain a deeper understanding of user preferences and patterns in the consumption of various types of content.
Like in most parts of the world, media entertainment technology in the GCC makes extensive use of online video platforms. These platforms have advanced to enable sequential ingestion, indexing, pre-transcoding (quality control), transcoding, quality control (post-transcode), publishing, distribution and the notification on video content (Telestream, 2015).
In the ingestion process, content is plugged into the workflow from satellite transmission, solid-state memory devices, editing workstations, or stream-based capture. The selection of software that is to be used in the process depends on the varieties of the available sources. Files may also be processed into a desirable form that will give optimal results in the transcoding process. Mezzanine streams are then prepared from the content. As such, assets are created and deposited into the repository (Telestream, 2015).
Ingested content then proceeds to the indexing stage to create metadata that can be attached onto the assets. This includes, the length of the file, its codec, the frame rate, among many other features. This is a critical stage because it adds features that can be retrieved by communication systems and managed to allow for quick changes to be made on the file. Most of the software that is used in indexing provide catalog management tools on the indexed file to ensure that the items that are connected to it are searchable (Telestream, 2015).
The process of quality control applies various quality standards on the content to flag any content that fails to match these standards. Various undesirable features can be identified during this process, including: the lack of metadata on an asset, unwanted loudness in audio, and unnecessary codec parameters. This process is completed by software toolkits that may be embedded in the workflow. External software can also be used to handle quality control (Telestream, 2015).
The processing of subtitles and captioning of images and audio content is done during the transcoding process. This can be completed within an available software platform. It can also be completed by combining external hardware to an available software platform. The available modern transcoding software toolkits allow for both video and audio to be processed simultaneously. This impacts on the volumes of content that can be processed in limited timescales. Content can also be trans-wrapped by ingesting the source file and de-muxing audio and video content into proper essence streams. The advantage of this process is that; it allows the audio and video to be processed separately and muxed together. The resulting file is suitable for processing on hardware processors. Transcoding software applications that are most preferred are those that provide techniques for handling multiple formats. This includes such broadcast formats as GXF, LXF, and MXF, in addition to typical formats such as MPEG-TS and MPEG-PS. Most trans-wrapping software can manipulate loads of audio data with ancillary and closed-captioning feature. They can perform the insertion of captions, and up-convert a caption format so as to transition to another format. They can also remap various channels, correct loudness, and encode content into other formats. Some other transcoding software toolkits can also perform assembly of assets to produce a distributable product. Such a feature may be used in stitching black slugs with promotional interstitials, master assets, trailer interstitials, and trailer black slugs. Multi-track assembly can also be offered by some developers for the purpose basic non-linear editing in the assembly of different forms of a project. One final aspect that is considered in the transcoding phase is the process that is employed and the way content is distributed in the server. Some producers prefer software that will transcode tasks as capacity is availed on the transcoding farm, while other may prefer software that transcodes content in a parallel format over transcoding resources that are available. The latter improves the speed at which transcoding occurs (Adler, 2013).
In publishing, the files that have been transcoded and their metadata are channeled to a repository. They are then packaged by putting the files into category structures or renaming them in order to facilitate a more orderly outputting.
The distribution phase pushes transcoded and published files onto a server. This is where the files are ready for being accessed over websites, through a content provider, on download applications, and on various online services.
The notification stage is the climax of the file-based workflow. At this stage, the final content is relayed to a user by sending them an alert to show that the file is available. The type of notification system that is used will depend on the number of people that are expected to access the file and how spread they are within a network. The number of sub-processes that may be part of a notification process will depend on the nature of a user’s needs. Sometimes, the user may have to respond to an initial notification before following several pre-determined steps in order to unleash the output in a desired form. Usually, this involves the invoking of one or more programs. The platform on which the content is being accessed will usually provide the necessary tools to complete the notification process and present the output in a suitable format (Adler, 2013).
Broadcast applications will usually provide file-based formats composed of multiple layers. The formats may include a video codec with essence, a container, and an audio codec with essence. They may also include caption data. Content processing technologies are able to adapt to newer formats and still maintain these elements. Modern broadcasters often attach a container structure to the description of video content which makes the files to be moved easily in a processing workflow. MXF format is an exemplary format that has this characteristic. It generates the AS-03 AMWA file extension. This format was built from a PBS-and-AMWA partnership. It was meant to be a vendor-neutral subpart of MXF that would be used in delivering finished programming output from their producers or distributors onto large networks. They are designed in such a way that; they can be delivered in full and be cached prior to being played out. The format has predefined metadata that identifies and facilitates verification of the content. This is separated from programming metadata which is delivered in distinct instances. One may also restrict the range of AS-03’s variability by assigning it a shim which creates categories to address a given genre of programming. It may also define bit rates, essence schemes for sound, and the aspect ratio. Video essence scheme data can be transformed for AS-03 MXF formats to MPEG-2, while the audio data can be transformed to AC3 and PCM. Data for the closed caption can also be transformed into SMPTE 334M and 436M VANC before they are muxed to the format of an AS-03 MXF container. Trans-warping is especially useful in such cases because it enables broadcasters to assign the files to other processes or other uses without re-encoding the video content (Adler, 2013).
Free to Air (FTA) broadcasting services have increased significantly in the GCC (Bhargava & Kaabi, 2014). FTA channels are now trying out creative ways for offering premium content to the large customer base in the region. They offer subscription services and attempt to differentiate these services from the free ones that come under FTA packages. The pay-TV channels that are offered under the premium packages are more rigorously marketed in the GCC than in other regions of the Middle East. For instance, MBC has acquired a large customer base by offering viewers with several alternatives to FTA content. They transmit Arabic drama series on the pay-TV channels before airing them on the FTA ones. As such, the pay-TV subscribers are offered priority of access to subsequently released episodes as the FTA ones wait for 24 hours before the episodes are made available on FTA channels.
The GCC entertainment media is becoming part of a larger market that is dominated by foreign-produced content. American and English productions have dominated the film industry in the region for a considerably long period of time (Youseff & Piane 2015). The global industry has grown to generate revenues of over over $1.5 trillion annually. Both in the GCC and in the global media market, there exists several hubs within which specialized content can be developed for distribution to local viewers and to a wider international audience. However, the reach of GCC-made content is still small in the international market, which is dominated by U.S productions. Other regional media productions are doing well in specific locales, and these include productions from England, Canada, India, and Germany. Some of the productions that have grown from the similarly current ratings of the GCC to compete on a global market include Indian, Russian, Brazilian, and Chinese productions (Youseff & Piane 2015). They account for close to 10% of global earnings in the industry. The factors that have characterized their growth could as well impact greatly on the growth of the GCC entertainment media production. However, stakeholders in the GCC media entertainment predominantly determine the direction that the industry can take. In particular, the governments of member-states of the council still need to recognize the importance of the industry to their countries’ development and respond to the needs of the industry. The film industry in the GCC needs to have access to incentives, more locations, safer and livable cities, production technology and infrastructure, and more talent. A rise in production of quality and marketable content will result in more employment opportunities, the transfer of knowledge and technology to the council, an improvement in the quality of life, and a possible boost to the tourism sector of the region. A wide range of resources are already at the disposal of GCC members, most of whom are diversifying their economies. As such, there is potential for the growth of the service sector to include an improved production of entertainment content. The GCC also possesses a wide range of sceneries including desserts, beaches, unique skylines, skyscrapers, among many others.
The GCC film industry has grown to a level whereby Egyptian productions are not relied upon to supply the local GCC film market. However, local audiences still need to be connected to the content that is released by GCC film-makers. For a long time, local audiences have been exposed to content that was produced by the Egyptian filmmakers. As a result, growth in the market for local content can be achieved if the local consumer is convinced to appreciate local productions. In the UAE, revenues generated from the film industry has grown tremendously. The federation now accounts for most of revenue generated from theatres in the Arab world. About $250 million is generated from approximately 1,400 screening locations in the region. The UAE accounts for about $135 million from approximately 200 screens. This is a comparably higher turnover than that which is contributed by the other GCC members and neighboring regions in the Middle East. An immense amount of effort has been contributed by GCC filmmakers, governments of member states, and international producers. Of particular importance are the film festivals, which have played a marketing role as well as provide producers with revenue through rewards. Additionally, more movie tickets are sold in the festivals and in the entire season within which the festivals occur. As such, the growth of the GCC film industry has remained tied to local consumers and government support. The need to reach out to a global audience is persistent but it may not come out as a priority until local market penetration is optimized. In 2014, Kuwait experienced a 16% increase in box-office sales of locally-produced films. However, the reception of Arabic films in the GCC and the entire Arab world is still low. Even the locally-produced films that gain a higher level of regional acceptance have a lot of foreign content in them. The problem is more complex and multi-dimensional in the sense that; broadcasters tend to depict a low level of interest in local films, which they see as to be having low sustainability. As such, it needs to be addressed from an economic dimension as well. Comparably, Hollywood films are enjoying a surge in demand, especially in the UAE. The audience is more receptive to popular releases with more attention being paid to the American billboards. In as much as this may seem like a global phenomenon, it indeed affects the very growth of the GCC film industry. However, it solely represents a level of success that has been attained by foreign productions and which local producers need to emulate. Such foreign films as Man of Steel, and The Conjuring have emerged to the top of the ranking in the region. The market of foreign productions therefore tends to be tied to more predictable factors such as economic performance and population growth. In 2013, for instance, a 2% growth in revenue was associated with a considerable growth in population. Local producers are restructuring to try and adopt to these challenges. The Qatar film industry has been exemplary in partnering with international producers to generate a wide range of content for their consumers. Qatar Media-Services has also taken control of Gulf Film Company as well as the Grand Cinemas which have been active in local productions. The companies are expected to work together in producing and filming local content in theatres across the GCC and the Middle East.
There is a considerable market potential in the video-on-demand (VoD) market as local filmmakers are able to broadcast their content through 21 movie channels to their Arab consumers (Dubai Press Club, 2014). Currently, the VoD market accounts for about 5% of all the revenues generated from films in the Arab world. However, with advances in technology and the emergence of premium VoD services, this can be expected to increase. It is particularly important for local content as the filmmakers need to circumvent the demand-based barriers that result in low access to public theatres. As such, consumers can be able to access local content in their own comfort and subscribe to long-term services that they prefer. The VoD services also enable the viewers to access past and current content and it is good for families that cannot afford individual tickets too theatres. However, there is still a gap in the knowledge available to the consumers with regard to the convenience that comes with VoD services. In addition to being able to choose preferred titles, they can also vary their types and levels of subscription depending on their specific needs. Filmmakers and marketers need to push these ideas in the market with more rigor in order to attain a favorable level of admission.
VoD services have been utilized by television broadcasters in the GCC (Bhargava & Kaabi, 2014). The market for these services in region is expanding rapidly, partly due to the increase in smartphone penetration and due to the emergence of more innovative ideas in the generation of TV content. However, these services are also facing competition from the content that is provided by FTA channels. Nevertheless, non-premium VoD services serve as effective complements to all other similar entertainment services. The trend of lowering the subscription fees seems to be widely accepted in the VoD market but this does not necessarily increase subscription rates. This in fact affects the providers’ abilities to improve their coverage and increase the variety of content in their libraries. The low levels of VoD subscriptions, however; do not differ from the low levels of pay TV subscriptions. The SVoD may grow together with a possible growth in pay-TV subscriptions. This may be enhanced by advances in technology and increased ownership of more powerful devices. Additionally, producers may need to generate premium Arabic content besides offering viewers with conational international content. TV broadcasters also utilize the YouTube platform to provide free video content from their private web pages. As such, millions of viewers access the content on their personal computer devices. The advantage of such platforms is that; the content is available for very long time and it can be reviewed by the consumer as many times as they wish. Some pay TV companies are also offering streaming services under private brands (like OSN GO). Broadcasters also incorporate other tools in the streaming services in order to create links with users on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (Bhargava & Kaabi, 2014).
Research on audiovisual media entertainment production has also awarded considerable focus to the sociocultural impacts of reality television, Video-on-Demand services, and other developments that enforce a high pervasive of content into various societies regardless of the existing cultural norms and values. This has influenced local policies on media regulation in some regions of the world. In some cases, it leads to loosening of previous regulations as people become tolerant to foreign cultures or the tightening of such regulations whenever authorities perceive the need to intervene in media freedoms over some issues. Reality television has also been explored both as a tool for research into human behavior and as source of potential violation of fundamental human rights. In most cases, participants engage in activities in order to get some reward in return. This exposes sensitive issues of materialism and on how broadcasters are willing to stretch the boundaries of some freedoms and rights in order to sell content. However, some reality shows explore issues of importance to the societies that are involved in a more objective manner. This helps to increase the diffusion of knowledge of publics on some realities and to break the barriers to information flow that have been placed by some sociocultural norms. Live debates over some issues also help people to appreciate cultural differences and to embrace the fundamental realities that may be obscured by such norms.
2.3 Literature overview / state if the art of research in “small states”
In recent times, entertainment has become an important and popular area of research in the field of communication theory (Bryant & Vorderer, 2006). The reason for such intense interest in the subject is the conceptualization of entertainment as an effective response to the entertainment products such as films, TV programs, music, art, books, etc. Entertainment as a human activity is characterized by involving “various physiological, cognitive, affective, and behavioral components” (Bryant & Vorderer, 2006, p. 4). Bosshart and Macconi (1998) suggested that the definition of entertainment is a complex task since the concept represents reception phenomena including psychological relaxation, change and diversion, stimulation, fun, joy, and the presence of relaxed atmosphere. As Vogel (2007) defined it, entertainment “produces a pleasurable and satisfying experience” making a close connection with recreation (p. 4).
2.3.1 Political and Legal Issues
Puppis (2009) conducted a comprehensive study on the investigation of the media landscapes of the small states and concluded that they are fundamentally different from those of developed large states. The difference is guided by the very concept of distinction existing between small and large states; foreign media penetrate the small states’ media industry, and complicate the operation of domestic media organizations, which may be further aggravated by sharing a common language with the closest large neighbors. Therefore, the key implications of Puppis’ (2009) research is that media regulation should be enforced in small states for the sake of achieving media diversity and granting protection to the local media culture from the global media companies.
The problem was detected not only in the small developing countries but in the smaller European nations as well. Meier and Trappel (1992) assumed that the smaller European states are heavily influenced by their large neighbors and they have to adopt various policies as responses to the new developments occurring in the larger states. The policies they adopt should take into account the existing policies and regulations of the giants in the shadow of which they exist, and not vice versa. This situation may be illustrated by the need to keep pace with digitization which makes smaller European countries incur more costs as compared to the larger states for ensuring compliance with the level of technological development of their neighbors. Moreover, the status of a small state presupposes that the resources of these states are limited and the market size is comparatively small for them to be considered worthwhile targets of production and consumption, which makes them the unlikely objects of multinational companies’ attention (Papathanassapoulos & Negrine, 2011).
The role of public service broadcasting (PSB) discussed by Nord (2008) and Siegert (2006) is undoubtedly a prominent aspect of the discussion of the small states’ media landscape and the modes of creative industries’ and entertainment production industries’ development. Puppis (2009) attracted the research community’s attention to the need to take a closer look at the consideration of the differences in political traditions among small states’ media systems. Micova (2010) conducted a study of Slovenia’s and Macedonia’s PSB systems with proper reference to the framework offered by Puppis (2009) and concluded that in these states, clear priorities exist in the PSB operation regarding the role they attribute to themselves in nurturing national identity and in serving the minorities. These priorities have been found to outweigh the functions of providing news coverage and information provision. Moreover, the challenges of resource scarcity and the size of the market were assumed to result into the broadcasters’ consciousness and continuous process of negotiating their role in the complex media landscape in regard to commercial broadcasters.
The topic of PSB’s role in the national media landscape in small states has also been researched by Trappel (1991) who was one of the first researchers to indicate the need to pay more attention to the concept of “smallness” in the analysis of the internationalization and cross-media networking acceleration on the global scale. The author indicated the strong necessity for political action in small European states aimed at the design of counteraction and integration power of the European community and associated market forces for the sake of enhancing regional identities and creating a certain “room for maneuver” for them (Trappel, 1991, p. 355). Trappel (1991) also indicated that “small states’ media operate under special and difficult conditions of small internal markets, shortage of resources, external dependency and vulnerability, and pressures of political corporatism” (p. 355). Hence, the only way of ensuring the preservation of small states’ media culture is the integration, cross-media orientation, and introduction of “media-ecological” elements into the national media cultures of small European states.
Economic and political considerations have long been considered the prime motives of distinguishing the range of policies adopted in small and large states. Thus, one can admit that the media landscapes of small states are dominantly characterized by protectionism, the policy stemming from the fear of small states’ governments to be economically retaliated by the larger and less vulnerable neighbors (Katzenstein, 1993). Moreover, the activities of small states in the economic arena have always been directed at fostering cooperation among themselves without regard to the potential of hindering trade or cooperation with the rest of the world, which is the trait of large, monopolistic giants in the global economic profile. Thus, the small states face a great number of economic challenges in terms of establishing themselves as autonomous entities to be able to govern the domestic policies, and possess a certain amount of influence at the international stage (Katzenstein, 1993).
2.3.2 Cultural Issues
Small states in Europe have to face the hegemony of not only the Anglo-American media, but also the inescapable presence of the large neighboring country sometimes using the same language. Hence, it becomes evident that the European media landscape has not experienced any significant changes over the past half of a century or so, remaining dominated by the small number of media giants. The common approach to regulating the media landscape in the European region is that of interventionist regulation, urging the small states to adopt policies not highly beneficial for them, but dictated by the larger and more powerful neighbors (Papathanassopoulos & Negrine, 2011).
Undoubtedly, many small states have been traditionally associated with a certain extent of authenticity and national specificity of media industries they have. The present position is consistent with the claims of Siegert (2006) that “public service broadcasting was and still is extremely important for small states, and it has an even stronger authorization than in bigger countries” (p. 200). Hence, it is evident that recent research implies the profound role of the national broadcasters in resisting the external influence of media giants and is seem as a tool of targeting the media giants’ expansionism.
The present claims are consistently proven by empirical research results. For instance, Nord (2008) conducted a detailed empirical study of the ways in which the Nordic countries’ media landscape has been changing recently. By analyzing the most popular media industries such as TV and popular press in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, Nord (2008) came to a conclusion that despite certain specificities and feasible differences the Nordic sector of Europe represents in relation to the rest of Europe, the Nordic media landscape model is gradually drifting towards a more universal Western model, being also influenced by the media and entertainment industry giants.
The Nordic newspapers have definitely lost their party press character and the majority can be described as modern independent newspapers without any clear political party affiliation…Governmental support has not been able to stop structural market changes, to slow down the reduction in external pluralism or to prevent a concentration of ownership of printed media. (Nord, 2008, p. 107-108).
Within the framework of national PSB considerations, Grisold (1996) turned the research community’s attention to one more serious issue for small states’ media industry –the challenges they face in the sustenance of the national newspaper publishing industry. The researcher focused on the situation in Austria and Ireland to illustrate how a powerful neighboring country where the same language is spoken can impair the development of the national newspaper industry. Grisold (1996) analyzed the similarities of different frameworks in the newspaper industry of these two countries and revealed the typical prerequisites of market successes and failures. The author’s conclusions imply that public policy possesses high significance in such countries as compared to larger states, and that the observed concentration tendencies can be effectively managed in case the states pay adequate attention to the need to target these phenomena through organized governmental action.
Aside from the national broadcasting service issues, there are specific peculiarities of particular entertainment industries faced by the small states worldwide under the pressure of globalization and the influence of powerful, large neighbors. Sepstrup (1990) outlined the basic challenges that small European states face in the field of TV entertainment industry. The author stated that small states design their media industries and entertainment production industries differently than larger countries do since they mix local and international components and favor international programming. A large part of international programming content is broadcast with subtitles in the original language to avoid the costs of dubbing; hence, many small states prefer to adopt a mixture of imported programming to enforce the sense of their national distinction and authenticity, while larger countries such as Great Britain, Germany, or France may prefer to favor local productions to achieve the same purposes. As Sepstrup (1990, p. 93) put it, the small West European countries receive relatively more foreign television than the big countries. But the supply in small countries is also much more diversified with regard to national background. One might hypothesize that the trans-nationalization of television diminishes the risk of television consumption contributing to the development of culturally narrow, chauvinistic, provincial attitudes, thus increasing the knowledge of, and encouraging an open mind towards other cultures and societies. (p.93)
However, it is not correct to confine the research on the small states’ entertainment industries and media landscapes’ differences only to the Western European countries. As Papathanassopoulos and Nergine (2011) indicated the problem of excessive influence and imposition of development tempos and patterns is also characteristic for the Eastern and Central European states. The Eastern European region’s countries have increasingly adjusted to the Western Europe media development modes and have reformed their media systems accordingly, assigning the rhythms and priorities of Western nations to them. The dominant volume of content is imported from the USA and large European countries, which implies the almost total neglect of content produced by smaller European countries and is seen by Papathanassopoulos and Nergine (2011) as the major impediment to the European public sphere and identity development. The findings of Papathanassopoulos and Nergine (2011) suggest that further pursuit of such unfair mechanism of media production and consumption in Europe may lead to adverse outcomes for small states’ media production industries, including “heavy cross-ownership by local dominant groups or a sharp decline in the fortunes of their public broadcasters” (p. 176).
The key to understanding the challenges small states face in the development and preservation of their national identity is in the proper awareness of the implications of globalization. As Bernal (1996) characterized it, small states are “vulnerable to external events and… with limited adjustment capacity are particularly exposed to the effects of globalization” (p. 88). The pace, extent, and nature of changes caused by the globalization processes are the factors to be considered by small states when designing the modes of interaction with their small and large neighbors. The major implication of globalization for the entertainment industry is that of the intensification of competition at the global scale with the erasure of boundaries between states and the increasing availability of diverse media content from large media giants. This way, the small national media industries become unable to compete for the consumers’ interest, since the US and Western European entertainment media content is likely to overwhelm the more conservative interests for analytical and informational media content.
2.3.3 Impact of Religion
Culture and religion are much entwined. Culture depends on the social forces in a community like conventions for behavior, food, habits, rituals and entertainment that keep people together. Religion defines how people in any community understand their role in society as based on its culture. In fact, religion comes from different cultures. Culture is based on values and the various modes of culture are material, social, institutional, symbolic, and intellectual. Religious and cultural values shape our society and affect each other (York, 2014). The GCC countries are dominantly Islamic countries following that religion fervently.
2.3.4 Technological Impact
Technological innovations produce an appreciable impact on entertainment production industry in small states. According to the research findings of Puppis (2009), Meier and Trappel (1992), Papathanassapoulos and Negrine (2011), Nord (2008), Sepstrup (1990), etc., there are a large number of influences that small states in practically every region of the world feel from their more powerful and more technologically advanced neighbors. Puppis (2009) assumed that foreign media penetrate the media landscapes of small states and complicate the domestic media functioning because of the inability of the latter to compete with more technologically advanced neighbors. The situation is observed mainly because of larger investments in the entertainment industry made in larger states. The idea was supported by Meier and Trappel (1992) who indicated that smaller states have to adapt to their larger neighbors’ media policies as they are unable to offer the media content of similarly high quality. Nord (2008) added that small states have scarce resources for the media industry, so they have to borrow high-quality media projects from larger countries despite their efforts to maintain certain authenticity of content. Papathanassapoulos and Negrine (2011) indicated that the problem is topical not only for European states but for the Eastern and Central European countries as well; they are urged to adjust to Western models of programming as it is technologically advanced and more involving, thus attracting more attention of the viewers.
2.3.5 Key Issues in the GCC Small states
Bahrain has tightened its media laws to curb elements of rebellion from the public. This followed the events of the “Arab Spring”. A lot of criticism for the government was being channeled through the media in what the state thought as to be forms of public incitement. Some international observers have rated Bahrain lowest in terms of media freedom in the GCC. A look at some of Bahrain’s media laws will shade light on the threshold of media freedom in the GCC. Bahrain protects freedom of expression in Article 23 and Article 24 of its constitution. The articles guarantee Bahraini citizens the freedom to express themselves under several conditions (IREX, 2008). These conditions touch on the need to observe Islamic faith, facilitate unity, and avoid causing conflicts among people (Bohejji, 2012). Similarly, the Bahraini media is allowed to express any ideas to the public as long it meets these conditions. These laws have been criticized by various activists who cite them as being vague and broad. The Bahraini courts hold the key to implementing them in a manner that can ensure that justice is served to all Bahrainis. The Bahraini constitution also tends to shift some of the burden of media regulation and regulation of free speech to the public. As such, the society is allowed to impose restrictions to such freedoms whenever it finds one’s speech or expression to be deviating from social norms. This creates a source of contention because it is quite difficult for one to find a clear line of demarcation between socially acceptable expressions and socially unacceptable expressions. However, some of the unacceptable forms of expressions are widely known in the Muslim society. For instance, people are not expected to openly criticize the clergy and important leaders. However, this allowance may also be extrapolated by smaller sections of the society and applied to conditions that do not warrant its applications. As such, these laws tend to capture wider elements in terms of beliefs and norms.
The Bahraini parliament sometimes makes moves towards widening the scope of the elements that are captured in media laws. Amendments to the 2002 Press Law 46 would prevent the detention of journalists who violate the Press laws but it would see journalists being prosecuted under various penal codes (Bohejji, 2012). Some of the amendments would also redefine conditions under which journalists would be liable for punishment under terrorism laws. Some international observers have reacted to these amendments with sharp criticism. Further criticism is also directed towards ownership of media houses in the country. The ministry of culture and information issues licenses to media agencies and media agents. However, there is controversy over ownership of most media outlets as politicians own large stakes in various sections of the media. As a result, regulation of ownership is subject to question. Moreover, the issuing of licenses for newspapers is controlled directly by cabinet. This allows politicians ample opportunities to determine both the ownership and control of the media. As a result, they have the ability to control the type of media content that is released to the public. Through the media, politicians can promote their ideologies and build their character. They can request media people to interview them and respond to specific issues that are of interest to the public.
Bahraini media agents have remained safe to operate for a long time. Journalists do not encounter physical attacks when covering news in non-violent situations. This can be explained by both the rather peaceful social coexistence and the strict penal code on violent crimes. As such, a safe atmosphere for journalism has been created amid complex regulations and political interference. Within this atmosphere, journalists can cover a wide range of topics but are restricted from covering sensitive political issues. For instance, criticizing political leaders or publishing any kind of material that would amount to tainting the reputation of a public servant is prohibited under Article 47 (Law of Publishing and Journalism). This law requires journalists to ensure that any such material is verified by authorities and that the content is allowed for public viewing. The same law also prohibits the publishing of content that would be derogatory to Islam or to the king. However, the king has been on the frontline on rejecting the punishing of journalists for publishing certain content. The censorship of the press on various issues has mainly been focused on imported publications. This may indicate that local journalists may have learnt to play by the rules and that; sticking to local content would make it easier for them to avoid trespassing to realms that are prohibited by the law. Article 47 was amended in 2008 to reduce restrictions on criticizing public officials.
Other small states in the GCC have different levels of protection for journalists and their media content. In Kuwait, Article 16 of the Penal code does not provide a clear specification of the acts that are considered to be damaging to the reputation of a public figure. It however allows for punishment to be administered with little room for the journalists’ protection from wrongful accusations. In Oman, Article 173 of the penal code gives significant focus to the kinds of activities that may amount to interference with a public official’s right to perform his or her duties (IREX, 2014). Any kind of speech, publication, or gesture that may amount to an act of publicly interfering with the ability of an official to perform his or her duties is punishable. Qatar provides protection to an accused person if he or she is able to prove that his or her publications, speech, or gestures represent the truth with regard to the actions of a public official. As a result, journalists can access justice in case they are wrongly accused of defamation. Saudi Arabia does not offer any kind of penal code (formally) in the media laws. This creates a vacuum that can only be filled by the court’s interpretation of cases. Cases of defamation can therefore be punished under other laws. Article 373, 375, and 378 of The UAE’s Penal code provide opportunities for accused persons to connect their allegations with verifiable incidents (IREX, 2009). This could lead to their acquittal in case the judge finds their allegations to be true.
3. Adapted theoretical framework of audiovisual media entertainment production impacts in small states (including peculiarities of small states)
- 1 Economic Dimension
Audiovisual media entertainment production in small states is immensely affected by their economies. These economies are also impacted by the media’s capacity to utilize local talent and local physical resources. Small states face various economic challenges, including:
- Lack of a wide range of exports
- Lack of advanced transport systems
- Limited information resources for investors and few opportunities for diversification among other challenges (Commonwealth, 2015)
As a result of the above challenges, the needs of local producers cannot be fully sufficed by local infrastructure. This explains the relative dominance of foreign media in small states. The small media systems that develop locally are often characterized by small-scale production, and dependence on foreign media for formats and for some of the content that is relayed to consumers. If a small state is bordered by larger states, more established media outlets from the larger neighbor will often set base in the small state. For instance, Cairo always influenced the creative industries of the Gulf before major producers emerged locally in the GCC. Such penetration of foreign media also creates intense competition for local producers, which reduces the marketability of their content. As a result, they may not be able to generate adequate financial resources for expanding their scale of production. The government and politicians also tend to own large stakes in media outlets that have the highest potential for growth. This puts the control of a large section of resources in the hands of federal authorities. As such, independent local producers are suppressed. Furthermore, the development of local talent may also be slowed down. However, as these economies grow, producers gain more autonomy. Audiovisual media production also has the potential of spurring growth in such areas as tourism, education, the hotel industry, and other sections of the economy. The inflow of foreign cultures also contributes to cultural diversity and may expand the pool of local talent in the small states. The forms of economic cooperation that small states create among themselves also increase the availability of local infrastructure and mobility of producers within the regions that are formed by these states. It expands the market for content that is produced locally in each state. It also makes it easier for producers to access more locations and larger pools of local talents.
3.2 Political and Legal Issues
Similar to their economies, the political landscapes of small states is not usually independent from foreign influence. The earliest establishments in media production were made by colonial powers. Investors from former colonial powers may also still own large stakes in the creative industries and other industries. In other cases, the reigning powers take over these investments and begin to control agenda setting in the media. The political agendas of the ruling parties and those of key political figures are always promoted in the media. In the case where foreign media has a high penetration, local media outlets may be used to counter the intervention of foreign powers in local politics. Political agendas may affect the production of entertainment content in many ways. The government may censor television programs that use political satire to entertain viewers. Some programs may be tailored to train the thinking of locals in a manner that favors specific political agendas. However, many small states have displayed a potential for creating strong democracies, engaging in international engagements, and allowing people to access information freely through a free and independent media. For instance Tobago and Trinidad has been vocal in fighting for its people’s rights through the ICC court, and the Baltic
States have formed strong democracies in Europe. Small states have also pushed agendas related to climate change through their local media and also made efforts in influencing perceptions through international media outlets.
Media regulation in small states often tends to have similar implications. The existence of small populations and reliance on a few internal public amenities makes people to be closer to core decision-makers in the management of national resources. Media regulation in countries that have poor or corrupt leadership always tends to reduce direct access to sensitive information. In such countries, unfair media laws may be formed to focus on censoring sections of the media and to polarize information based on specific political agendas. This results in a decline in creativity and in the reduction of talented performers that may be willing to engage in the production of content
3.3 Cultural Issues
The content that is produced by the entertainment media of small states reflects the extent to which certain cultures have been established within these states. Many small states occur on regions of oceanic coasts and sea coasts as islands. Most of these regions were part of busy hubs of trade and migration and experienced an inflow of different cultures. As such, various types of traditional music, dance, cuisines, art, and other cultural elements are made available for the entertainment media. However, the problem of small-scale operation can make it difficult for local media to utilize these resources while they last. Some small states that have unique and vibrant media have been able to showcase their cultures through the international media. Language usually plays a great role in such endeavors and small states where English is adopted as an official language often have greater chances of getting their cultures appreciated internationally. The amount effort that the governments direct towards the preservation of social and cultural heritages determines the availability of resources for creating unique audiovisual media content. Governments of small states may strengthen cultural elements of their subjects by helping locals to deal with erosive elements of foreign influence and investing in performing arts.
The existing cultures in small states also determine what can be included or excluded from audiovisual content that is produced for the local audience. Hall (1976) explored how communication is influenced by low and high-context cultures. People who come from high context cultures tend to interpret most messages by relating them to one or more elements of their culture while those from high-context cultures tend to be more explicit when interpreting messages. These elements are also embedded in language. As a result, audiences in states that share a common language with many other nations tend to have better tastes for content that is generated for an international audience. This also makes it possible for them to generate content that can be consumed both locally and internationally.
3.4 Impact of Religion
Like culture, religion impacts on people’s tastes for certain forms of entertainment. Religion is also linked to the histories of countries. The impact of former colonial powers on the spread of specific religions has also impacted on the perception of people towards certain elements of culture that are embedded in media content. Small states have small populations, and are likely to have a lower religious diversity compared to large states. In small states that are dominated by one religion, the elements of religion can be embedded in social norms. This determines how people respond to media content. It also determines the general cycle of life for the people and hence the availability of audiences for the entertainment media. The level of religious diversity in a country also determines the level of religious tolerance that is exercised within the country. Religious tolerance helps a society to accommodate diverse views and is an antecedent for attaining cultural diversity. Media content that contains elements of foreign beliefs will be rejected strongly in societies that have low religious tolerance. Religious extremism is a serious contemporary issue that affects freedom of expression in areas where there is low religious tolerance. This leads to media self-censorship on issues that touch on religion; which limits the application of religious satire, religious symbols, and other elements in the production of audiovisual media content. Religion may also be embedded in national values and this impacts on the types of media laws that are formulated. This reinforces the public’s understanding of religion and their reaction to some forms of media content. For instance, the production of media content that dramatizes the lives of religious figures may lead to unrests in states where people hold these figures as to be sacred.
3.5 Technological Impact
Technological innovations have boosted media entertainment production in small states. Satellite TV and other digital technologies like the internet have made it easier to cover the market for small states. Producers can even cover entire states if they build content that is received well in the local market. However, foreign media often dominates the utilization of technology due to having immense resources and local appreciation of foreign content (Puppis, 2009). Small states may also be held behind by the monopoly of a few individuals in the distribution of communication technologies. In areas where the government or ruling families hold a large stake of the entertainment media, the response to an expanding market for audiovisual media content may be slow or absent. In cases where political interests contradict with the need to improve access to information and sharing of ideas, the distribution of technologies to all parts of a country may not be a priority for the government. However, the private sector plays an essential role in recognizing emerging markets for newer technologies and availing these technologies to populations in some of these countries. A high proliferation of mobile technologies has been achieved worldwide. This has made media content to be readily available to consumers via the internet. It has also impacted immensely on the ability of authorities to censor some forms of foreign content. The massive content that flows in from all kinds of international media also shapes the tastes of locals for certain audiovisual media content. The rise of reality television in some states due to the proliferation of satellite TV is an example of such an impact. Nevertheless, a high proliferation of media technology enhances the quality and quantity of audiovisual media entertainment production.
4. Description of GCC states (histories, economies etc)
4.1 Historical Accounts
The earliest king of Saudi Arabia made effort to establish a unified understanding of Islam in Saudi Arabia. He used British support to crush rebel groups such as the Ikhwan (who were the founders of Muslim Brotherhood). In doing so, he allowed for a culture of freedom to begin to thrive and established a strong state on the foundation of Islam. The unified form of Islam that was to be established ensured that people would be taught only the purest form of the religion (the teachings of Al Wahhab) and that no one would criticize the Kingdom or the ruling family, especially in its international treaties. This development has remained key in the modernization of Saudi Arabia as the rulers embrace both western education (especially for their own children) and also ensure that the public adheres strictly to the principles of Islam. Similarly, the development of modern entertainment media has embraced formats from the west even as emphasis is placed on generating content that can appeal to the local population. Some forms of art that are produced also express rebellion for consumerism and the ‘one voice’ form of religion in the KSA. The king developed modern infrastructure in the kingdom and his sons have continued to with this mission to this day.
Entertainment media production in the KSA has benefited from the developments of King Saud, who ruled from 1953 to 1964 (Peterson, 2003). His kingdom’s modern infrastructure and his influence on giving the media a significant level of freedom has enabled the industry to prosper in the KSA. He also established centers for entertainment production, such as the Riyadh Fine Arts Academy in 1964. The king believed in formal education and civilization so much that he drove the country into debt as a result of borrowing to build modern infrastructure. As a result, he was replaced by King Faisal (his half-brother). King Faisal also promoted order and formal organization through institutions. He allowed western companies to drill Saudi’s oil and a large number of expatriates settled in the cities to work in the oil fields. This led to a clash in cultures as the westerners disregarded the Saudi people’s culture. This conflict has remained a major factor in the depiction of western cultures in the GCC’s local media content. The western media still presents Arabs as “laid back” and the Arab world still understands them as to be “arrogant” or “intolerant”. The Americans displayed their advanced skills in engineering and industrialization by social places of entertainment, industries, hospitals, schools, and other forms of infrastructure. The GCC people still recognize the United States’ edge in industrialization even as they differ on other areas in politics and culture. Additionally, the GCC entertainment media still produces some content that depicts Americans as to be targeting oil reserves in the region. The growing population is also providing market and talent to media production in the KSA (Kearney, 2008). To sustain the growing population, the kingdom is working on reducing disparity in income levels between dwellers of urban centers and rural areas. This is also increasing access to entertainment media services in rural areas as more people are able to afford radio, TV, and tickets to theatres and other areas of entertainment. This is also being facilitated by the development of transport systems across the kingdom. The KSA is also targeting the international market by creating modern transport hubs like the Ha’il city which is meant to be one of the busiest transport hubs in the GCC. Tabuk is another modern city that is being built in the KSA. These cities will also provide sceneries for modern media entertainment production, residences for larger populations, a social environment for entertainment, offices for media production, among other facilities that will support the growth of entertainment media production in the KSA. The arts industry is particularly already growing as a result of these developments. However, liberal elements are still suppressed in art. Nevertheless, such activities as book fairs, film festivals, and reality TV have lightened up the KSA media entertainment industry (Kearney, 2008). Creative literature is receiving significant support from the public. The government has resisted rebellious ideas by people who have tried to oppose and attack book fairs. It has expanded the variety of books that can be included in book fairs and allowed both women and men to access the services. Hundreds of Saudis have attended such fairs in Riyadh. Such bold moves really boost the Saudi entertainment industry as they create a growing sense of security for writers and producers. It also ensures that people acquire diverse tests for entertainment content. This supports the growth of a diverse market to cater for the growing talent base in the KSA.
The impact of the Ottoman rule had imposed restrictions to the environment that would support the growth of this industry. The rise of Saudi states in the early 19th Century provided some hope for the revival of Arabia entertainment. However, the first and the second states did not threaten the Ottoman rule or the British invasion of the Gulf. The Ottoman Empire conquered Oman in its occupation of the larger Gulf coast while the British maintained their rule over Bahrain. Bahrain developed active urban centers to become the main trade center in the Gulf. Kuwait was thus overtaken economically. Bahrain also served as home to a diverse population of Indians, Bedouin traders, Iraqis, Levant people, Europeans, and Omanis. As such, a diverse range of cultures led to the development of diverse art forms in the region. Kuwait’s ruling family, the Al Sabah; did not have as much control over Kuwait as did other powers over their territories in the region. As such Kuwaiti merchants had an influence to the Kuwaiti economy and culture. However, the Al Sabah rulers had to collaborate with the other regional powers in exchange for resources and regional autonomy. Eventually, the ruling family surrendered Kuwait to the British. This would later lead to the prosperity of Kuwait and later attempts by Saudi Arabia to capture it. The British maintained a strong grip over it and it continued to develop. These developments led to the availability of a significant amount of resources for the development of the early Kuwaiti entertainment media. Most of the content linked to this period reflected the position of Kuwait as an active trading center in the Gulf.
4.2 Economic Issues
Economic resources that facilitated Bahrain’s development included pearls, agricultural resources, and oil. As a result, modern institutions were established earlier in Bahrain than in most of the other GCC states. Modern forms of art and other forms of media entertainment would later thrive as a result of formal education. Oil reserves were also discovered in the struggling economies of Kuwait and the UAE as well as on Qatar’s west coast. A look at the trends that have characterized the transformation of the GCC’s modern media entertainment production will follow in the next section. We begin by focusing on Saudi Arabia before giving exclusive focus to the small states of the GCC.
The UAE has been pursuing an aggressive tourism development industry and has coupled it with the establishment of a wide range of entertainment options such as music festivals, art centers and exhibitions, amusement parks, hotels, resorts, etc. Qatar has also initiated an intense tourism development campaign in 2004 and invested $15 billion into the tourism development plan, including the establishment of beach and island resorts, as well as “lifestyle cities” for the attraction of more tourists and entertainment searchers to the state (Peck, 2010). One of the considerable achievements of Qatar is the Summer Wonders festival, a month-long entertainment festival including vast opportunities for shopping, amusement, cultural entertainment, etc. However, Summer Wonders is so far directed at the visitors from neighboring countries, i.e., the GCC region.
Oman is another GCC country that initiated comprehensive tourism development in 2004; this state launched three tourism projects including the Waves financed by the UAE-based Majid al-Futtain Investment Company. The Wave is projected to become a “world class resort” located to the west from Muscat. Some additional tourism projects have been created in the south of Oman, in the city of Salalah. The success of tourism and entertainment industry’s development in Oman is secured by the personal involvement of the country’s ruler, Sultan Qabus, into its development. Sultan Qabus takes an active part in the promotion of youth tourism within the state for the young generation of Omani people to explore less famous and known parts of the state. Official political action has been taken in Oman to inculcate attention to tourism as an essential aspect of the economic activity in Oman; in 2004, the Ministry of Tourism was created in Oman (Peck, 2010).
There is a wide range of challenges that GCC countries face in the process of their development and growth in political, social, and economic terms, and that can produce a direct and indirect impact on the establishment of the creative industry in the region. As Fasano and Iqbal (2003) admitted, the GCC countries have always been, and continue to be, heavily dependent on the expatriate labor force as compared to a relatively small percentage of domestic labor force and low level of professional domestic training. In 2003, the share of expatriates employed in GCC countries was about ¾ of the total labor force of the region. A favorable expatriate labor policy in the GCC region helped the countries diversify their production base and service sector in the 1970s; this served as an initial contributor to the economic growth because imported skills and internationally competitive salaries ensured the reduction of production costs (Fasano & Iqbal, 2003).
At present, the GCC countries enjoy a comparatively favorable period of economic growth as the real GDP growth for the GCC region has reached 7.5%, the highest since 2003 (IMF, 2012).
Since 2003, the member states of the GCC have had very high economic development. These states differ greatly in economic parameters like population and GDP (see Table 1). Saudi Arabia is the largest of the six countries in population, followed by UAE (ECB, 2008).
Table 1 – Population and GDP of GCC Countries (2006 data)
|GDP per capita (USD)|
|Total||35.9 million||712.4 billion||137,700 USD|
(Source: ECB, 2008)
With their heavy reliance on oil and gas revenues, the GCC countries have a challenging task of diversification of economies, especially in Bahrain and Oman which may face a depletion of gas and oil reserves. The need for diversiﬁcation is also connected with a large young population (ECB, 2008). In the GCC region, entertainment production has experienced some growth and development due to the strategy of distancing itself from the oil economy with alternative commercial solutions.
The introduction of the entertainment production industry in the GCC region, as well as in other Arab countries, has contributed to the change in Arab identity and culture. In the GCC region, the UAE in general and Dubai in particular, remains the leader in the industry development. The challenges Arab countries in the GCC region have to overcome are the cultural and language adaptation, finding the proper balance between the domestic and expatriate labor force, and the wise use of the large proportion of youth population to foster innovation and creativity.
The entertainment industry has taken a firm place in all modern advanced economies. According to Hartley (2005), the core copyright industry in the USA had an estimated worth of USD 791.2 billion in 2001, equaling about 7.75% of the national GDP and employing 8 million workers, contributing to national growth and well-being. In the UK, the industry revenues equaled about £112.5 billion with employment for 1.3 million people. The global expenditures on entertainment and media were projected to exceed 1.8 trillion by 2010, with the internet access and television networks leading in the industry (Sayre & King, 2010). These figures, coupled with the recognition of this industry being knowledge-intensive, make the industry a subject of intense research, development, and analysis (Hartley, 2005).
The pursuit of the non-oil growth of the region’s economies is also observed to be at an intense pace but still characterized with less robustness than that observed in 2011. The non-oil growth is assessed at 7% in 2011, 6% in 2012, and is projected to equal about 5.2% in 2013 (IMF, 2012).
As IMF (2012) specialists bring out, one of the important priorities for the GCC countries is provision of sufficient job creation for their nationals. The rapid growth of the working age population in the GCC region is inconsistent with the private sector’s intense reliance on the expatriate labor force offering professionalism, strong educational background, and expertise in the majority of commercial fields. Therefore, inadequate employment potential that GCC countries offer to their citizens is a major concern threatening the economic growth and development in the region. The policy adopted by the GCC countries in this respect is to enhance educational and training systems available for the GCC working force, and to improve job placement services together with the provision of targeted subsidies for hiring new labor market entrants for job creation acceleration (IMF, 2012).
As economic resources became available, the small GCC states have competed fiercely in the area of entertainment media, especially through art. The availability of entertainment media content was associated with availability of freedom and success in a country. The countries’ leaders spent a considerable amount of effort to promote this industry in order to earn a favorable status on a national and regional level. Kuwait emerged as the first country to lead in the industry as the ruling families like Al Sabah and Sultans funded the entertainment media. They supported the establishment of galleries, museums, and archives in order to promote the industry. When the Gulf wars took off, Kuwait became involved in some of the conflicts. As a result, it lost control of the industry and Bahrain took over. The UAE’s emirate of Sharjah would then become the leader in the industry as it established more affluent museums. The emirate’s leadership has put in place strong policies for building and maintaining museums, promoting art, and preserving culture. It also hosts international biennials for art and has attracted an international audience towards its content. Rapid urbanization in Dubai and its tremendous economic growth led it to outcompete Sharjah. Dubai has also established organized systems and policies for the preservation of art and promotion of the entertainment media. Art Dubai is a common theme that is well known in the international world of art. The emirate also maintains more than 50 state of the art galleries in the city of Dubai.
Abu Dhabi’s economic growth has also placed it in a favorable position in entertainment media (Smeets & Bayar, 2012). It has established a cultural district that has state of the art museums on the Saadiyat Island. Guggenheim and Louvre are well-known hot-spots for artistic expressions in the emirate. Most Abu Dhabi’s nationals and international experts recognize these hotspots as to have valuable content. As a result, these hotspots serve as sources of revenue for the development of the Abu Dhabi entertainment media industry. During the 2008-2010 world financial crisis, Abu Dhabi’s industry was affected significantly by dwindling incomes and a destabilized national revenue stream. Qatar’s cultural institutions were growing in size and efficiency during this period. For instance, The Qatar Islamic Art Museum stands to be among the best museums in the world. Economic resources for the development of Qatar’s entertainment media industry have been availed by the ruling family, which has set up world-class collections of Arab art and Islamic art over the past few years. The ruling family also maintains galleries with collections of contemporary art. Qatar also enjoys an incredible level of press freedom. This allows the entertainment media to make optimal use of its resources I developing content in a free and peaceful atmosphere. The Qatar government has also injected a significant amount of resources in a wide array of performing arts. The Royal Qatar Opera House is an exemplary establishment that signifies the government’s support for performing arts. Qatar is therefore generating plenty of high quality local content in drama, film, and other areas of entertainment.
Saudi Arabia’s entertainment media has also grown significantly as there has been an upsurge in the availability of talented artists. This adds a great deal of variety to the entertainment media content of the GCC. The Saudi government also directs some form of support for this industry even though the country is still lagging behind in various issues that touch on media freedom. Nevertheless, the efforts of individual artists and independent organizations provide resources for the development of this industry in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The economic dimension of the GCC entertainment media is strongly tied to the countries’ economic systems. These systems are controlled by monarchies, and as such, the will power of the countries’ leadership plays a significant role in determining the amount of resources that can be availed to the industry. Essentially, the monarchies themselves invest in the production of entertainment content. This can be quite a striking idea to comprehend for people who may have had significant exposure to the western entertainment media industries. From a simpler point of view, the monarchies supplement governmental inputs into the entertainment media industry in order to facilitate the production of content in this industry. This is particularly important because art in the GCC is not well commercialized to a level that it can support itself. This can be attributed in part to the informal taxation systems that are used and to various legal, and sociopolitical restrictions on liberal art. Among the small states, Kuwait and Bahrain stand out as the only states whose governments’ have continually funded the entertainment media. As a result, independent supporters also play an important role in supporting art in the GCC. The interests of these supporters determine the type of art that receives support. However, they have diverse interests and views including issues of identity, the way Arabs adopt to change in the evolving world, among other issues (Bennett et al., 2007). Most of them also display interest in supporting the sophistication of the Arab culture and elevation of the common Arab towards a state of excellence and personal efficiency. They also explore personal issues in a self-rewarding manner besides supporting development in various sections of the socioeconomic sectors of the GCC.
The patronage of arts in the GCC and the economic support that is awarded to the development of the entertainment media by local patrons is not a common feature in Dubai’s flourishing art industry. The emirate has a unique market with a lot of diversity in personalities and cultures. As such, it is easier for a wide range of themes to thrive. This creates potential channels that can be tapped to access a wide range of talents to feed an international set of clientele. Initially, most of the international clients were of Iranian origin and Arabs in the diaspora. Currently a large number of Asians and Westerners compose a large proportion of this clientele.
The GCC media has had an enormous impact on people’s level of knowledge about the region. As a result citizens of GCC nations travel widely across the region and in the Middle East. In fact, GCC members contribute more than a third of international spending on outbound travel in the neighboring regions (ETC, 2012). Travels from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE accounted for over 11 million arrivals at foreign destinations in the region (DTZ, 2014). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributes a relatively higher (>40%) share of these travels. The leisure activities that these travelers are looking for depend on the information that is communicated to them by media channels and past experiences. Most travelers from the UAE have very refined tastes; as they are mainly searching for unique experiences in their best destinations. Moreover, they are often ready to pay for premium services in order to get some additional benefits. GCC countries collectively account for 75% of spending on international outbound travel by Middle Easterners (ETC, 2012). The UAE, Kuwait, and Qatar are also experiencing growth in the numbers of people travelling out of the region and in their expenditures abroad (UNWTO, 2013).
4.3 Cultural Factors
The primary source of the challenges in development of entertainment and creative industries in the GCC region is the history of isolation and hostility towards tourists that GCC countries displayed during the period of British protection and during the first stages of independence (Peck, 2010). However, the past two decades have witnessed a sharp shift of the tourism and entertainment policies in the GCC region with majority of countries opening their borders and relying on tourism and entertainment as significant sources of national revenues. Within the GCC region, the UAE is considered the second biggest visitor destination after Saudi Arabia. However, this ranking does not presuppose the leadership of Saudi Arabia in the tourism and entertainment industries, since its tourism popularity is explained by the abundance of religious shrines to which pilgrimage or hajj is conducted by Islamic believers (Peck, 2010).
Market players new to the entertainment field in the GCC region have to be particularly cautious about cultural adaptation of TV shows and programs for the sake of preserving the audience and acquiring popularity among the masses. In other way, a cross-cultural conflict or misunderstanding may act as a fundamental barrier in the entrance to the GCC entertainment production market (Moran, 2009). Moreover, the language adaptation is also a highly significant challenge for the creative industry players in the GCC region for the reason that the Arabic language represents a language fundamentally different from all Western languages, and literal translation of the media contents may cause major misunderstandings with the audience (Moran, 2009). Both kinds of adaptation possess vital importance in the context of media development in the GCC region.
Looking closely at the cultural background and heritage of the Arab countries including the GCC states, Moran (2009) focused on the challenges of TV entertainment industry in this region and the Middle East. The author noted that reality TV has become an unstoppable force, an indispensable kind of mass entertainment even in the Arab TV industry, despite the seemingly rigid cultural norms and limitations Arab people usually observe. The Arab reality TV was found to have opened new social and political spaces to manifest the transition to the Arab modernity; much controversy surrounded the Arab reality TV in 2003-2007 but the result was a change in the Arab identities and societies. The introduction of reality TV in Arab countries, including the GCC region, has initiated the creation of new selves, and the emergence of new composite citizen-consumers (Moran, 2009).
Another observation in the reality TV introduction into Arab media landscapes is that as the concept of television has always been considered an inherently Western innovation; diverse program genres selected for broadcasting in various Arab countries were also commonly associated with foreign roots and caused disapproval of many conservatively directed Arab citizens and authorities. Moran (2009) found that the viewer responses across the Middle East suggest that the format adaptation techniques are the triggers of both political assertion by progressively directed citizens, and the resurgent authority enforcement by conservative citizens. This observation means that TV in Arab countries has acquired a more diversified and affluent role, taking into account the individualized needs of certain Arab citizen groups.
Under conditions of intense nationalization of the private sector employment, there is a possible threat of diminished economic growth and development of certain commercial fields new and unknown in the Arab countries including the GCC region. The entertainment industry is an inherently Western invention and it has entered the economic profiles of the Arab countries only recently (except from those specializing in tourism and entertainment, such as, for instance, Egypt). Hence, GCC countries wishing to develop the creative and entertainment production industries will face a severe shortage of professional, experienced labor force in case they refuse the idea of hiring expatriates for training, coaching, and leading the GCC employees in the field.
Taking into account the highly favorable economic, demographic, and cultural changes in the GCC region, Moran (2009) directed his research attention to identifying the entertainment industry’s challenges specific to the expansion in the GCC states. Taking the example of television industry development and format adaptation, Moran (2009) found that among the challenges faced by aspiring market players in the GCC region, cultural and language adaptation are the most profound ones to be managed. The reason for their significance is that many reality shows, films, and entertainment programming contents do not fit the conservative, highly isolated, fundamental Islamic traditions, identity, and culture.
4.4 Society and Heritage
The GCC entertainment media offers a great deal of content on the role of Islam in civilization. Various programs showcase the history of Islam and depict it to have been a powerful source of civilization for centuries. Its spread and creativity is traced back to the 7th Century. Arab Muslims from the Arab Peninsula proceeded to conquer territories in Persia. They took their culture to parts of India, China, and West Africa. As a result, cities were built in these areas and knowledge began to be shared on agriculture, architecture, mathematics, and science. This civilization also led to a form of societal order that would later create common law based on the tenets of Islam. Later on, politics and economics took a central stage in leadership (Tetreault et al., 2011). Legal control was embraced to maintain order and protect people’s freedoms. The development of ancient cities such as Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad, Persia, and Delhi is also portrayed. The GCC media also revitalizes elements of art and poetry which were bred by the Islamic culture. The historic tragedies that were encountered by Muslims are also highlighted, including the killing of Muslims in crusades, the invasion of Egypt by Napoleon, and later on the colonization of Arabs by the British, the Germans, the French, and the Italians. Colonization led to the suppression of Islamic art, Islamic education, and Islamic civilization. As such, the GCC media tends to revive essential elements of this civilization that were lost during colonization. Furthermore, the rapid rise of the Western media in the post-colonial error led to a wide range of anti-Islamic views to spread across the globe. As Arabs recovered from the loss of their original Islamic culture, their media also developed and they began to counter these views. However, the Western media has always expanded and developed faster than other regional forms of media. This has been coupled by technological inventions and innovations in the West. As a result, the spread of anti-Islamic sentiments has always happened at a faster rate than the spread of Islamic views. The GCC media has undergone rapid development in the recent times as a result of the advent of satellite TV and the penetration of mobile technology. This represents a growth in the potential of it to counteract Western ideologies about Islam.
Safeguarding of national values, society, and legacy are inseparable from national personality and there is a need for a safe and stable media culture at ease with its place in the present day world (Rosenberg, 1999). The Government’s goal is to make sure that economic development brings about the preservation as opposed to the diminishment of the nation’s social legacy. The news media mines the work of scientists and scholars and conveys it to the general public, often emphasizing elements that have inherent appeal or the ability to shock. Both scholarly facts and news stories get adjusted through popular transmission, often to the point of outright falsehoods (Schuetz, 2012).
Critics of television and film have argued that the quality of TV has been weakened as stations pursue ratings by focusing on the breathtaking, the superficial, and the popular news. In films, Hollywood culture and values are increasingly dominating film processing in other countries. Hollywood films have changed to themes that focus on the basic instincts of aggression, vengeance, brutality, and covetousness. The plots often seem simplistic, a standardized template taken from the shelf, and dialog is minimal. The characters are shallow and unconvincing, the dialog is also simple, unreal, and badly constructed (Geraghty, 2008).
The Cultural Foundation in UAE has long been a social oasis in the capital. The most imperative section of the Cultural Foundation is the National Library, which has over a million books, most in Arabic and some accumulations in an assortment of foreign dialects (Jansson, 2002). The two vast theaters are utilized for traditional music shows, film shows, plays, and film celebrations. The Emirates Natural History Group, the UAE’s most environmental non-legislative association, has held its open gatherings in the Cultural Foundation on a twice-month for the last twenty years (Flanagan, 2013).
4.5 Legal issues
Freedom of the press is the freedom of communication and expression through various mediums including electronic media and distributed materials. On an individual level, freedom is a means of participation in the processes of decision-making to shape the destiny of the country (Calvert, 2006). Communities which are optimists accept that free speech improves the political decision-making. In the long-run the best test of freedom of expression is the ability of any government to allow its people to express their free will (Sullivan, 2005).
While such freedom generally translates to less interference and obstruction by state apparatus, its protection is done through national constitutions or lawful legislation. Regarding information and data, the state categorizes which materials are open or bound from revelation to the general population because of importance of the data to securing the national welfare. Numerous governments are subject to laws and agitation for freedom of sharing information with the masses (Melkonian, 2012).
Most research in the GCC media has been focused on the political issues, especially on differences in opinion between the GCC and the west. However, the region has immense resources that support a thriving media industry. Its media industry is also focusing on unique issues of development, culture, religion, and other issues of importance to people of the GCC. The GCC media has created attention over various issues to do with censorship, political interference in the media, and the future of the region. The western media has always been on the forefront of analyzing issues in the GCC as a result of the GCC media being regulated highly by governments.
4.6 Technological Issues
Despite the challenges faced by entertainment production development in the GCC region, much is being done by the international community to introduce the GCC community to the latest achievements of the entertainment industry, including amusement, film production, music, etc. In particular, the effort of the forefront Western media giants to bring technology to the GCC region is a significant contribution to entertainment industry’s development in this region. The recent initiative of Kevin Spacey, an outstanding Hollywood star, to create the Middle East Theater Academy in the GCC region is one of the considerable steps forward to take the creative industry’s development ahead. In 2011, Kevin Spacey had joined the efforts of the Dubai-based Crescent Investments Company with the purpose of developing theater and film industries in the Middle East region (Haft, 2011). The Middle East Theater Academy is known as a non-profit initiative aiming at reaching out to children and aspiring professionals in the industry, encouraging the creative industry’s expansion by means of attracting private funding to the entertainment field development in the GCC region (Haft, 2011).
Alongside the challenges and problems of cultural, political, and linguistic origin that face the developers of the creative and entertainment production industries in the GCC region, there is a favorable climate of openness to innovation, and willingness to invest in the cutting-edge technology that may contribute to quicker development in this field. Almunajjed and Sabbagh (2011) acknowledged that one of the key strengths that make the GCC region an open avenue for the innovation and rapid development is a large proportion of youth in the population of the GCC countries; presently, population aged 25 and younger occupies from one half to one third of the GCC population. Therefore, the GCC youth is seen as the prime force able to bring in the innovation, modernity, and change in the traditional Arab culture, and to make the contemporary GCC context more suitable for the development of modern creative and entertainment production industries.
The GCC entertainment media occupies a unique position in the region’s economics. Over the region’s history, the media has facilitated exchange of critical information on the development and availability of valuable resources in art, poetry, music, culture, travel, tourism, among other areas of importance to the region’s economy. Similarly, the availability of these resources have foreseen the advancement of the GCC entertainment media. This interaction has had far-reaching impacts on the economics of the industry, the tastes of GCC consumers for various forms of entertainment, the relationships between people and their leaders, economically significant cooperation between GCC countries and between GCC and the outside world, and the participation of people in the arts within the GCC. The economic dimensions of these interactions are hereby examined in detail.
Entertainment media in the GCC has grown from a state of dormancy where there was almost no availability of entertainment activity in the media. The only few producers of entertainment content in the early decades of the 21st century were sculptures and painters from Baghdad and Cairo. Their content was not shared with the public but was rather enjoyed within their small circles of peers. Some level of activity began to occur in Bahrain and Kuwait as wealthy Arab and Palestinian emigrants settled in these areas. However, these emigrants just acquired their favorite content and enjoyed it in their family circles. The activities of foreign artists thus spurred the production of early forms of entertainment content for the earliest GCC media. A wide range of socioeconomic factors would later influence the development of the entertainment media in the region. Oil resources became the region’s core source of revenue. A tremendous increase in the youthful population also lead to an increase in the appetite for entertainment. All the GCC countries now have more than 50% of their populations composed of young people.
The availability of entertainment content in the GCC began to stabilize as artists embraced the region’s uniqueness within a global community. The growth of the western media and the socioeconomic success that was being experienced in west was being steadily watched by the Arab people. The western media also attacked the Arab culture by labelling it as “backward”, which made artists in the Arab world to start protecting the identity and culture of the Arab people (Hourani, 1967). This was overshadowed by a strongly authoritarian leadership of the Ottoman Empire. The fall of the empire ushered in a new set of young leaders who would embrace art and entertainment. However, the reigning world colonial powers took over the Arab world, stalling the development of indigenous art. The struggle for independence would later take over the Arab world. During this period, the Arab world was filled with excitement and Nasser’s and Ba’athist socialist ideologies were popularized and revered among the Arab people. During this period, it was necessary to have resourceful people support such ideas because the economy of the Arab world was controlled and drained by western powers. Arab elites and middle class citizens supported these movements. Post-independence regimes, however thwarted these developments as autocratic leaders such as Saddam Hussein and the Assad took over vibrant regions of the Arab world in imperialist attempts to gain more power and control. Thus, people were stripped off all socioeconomic resources that were needed to promote the development of popular ideologies in art, music, and other forms of entertainment media. The reigning Arab regimes would only promote their favorable versions of culture and religion.
Arabic language and culture influences a large section of media content in GCC countries. The Arabic language is widely recognized worldwide with over 400 million speakers using it (UNESCO, 2014). It is related to other languages within the Semitic linguistic family which makes it possible to share content across many parts of the Arab world. Moreover, it is the primary liturgical language in Islam, making it possible to share content to a larger global community. Some sections of the media also appeal to other non-Arabic communities such as Hindu, Punjabis, and Bengali, among other Asian communities. The customs, traditions, and religion of GCC communities predominantly define the amount and type of content that is produced and broadcasted in the GCC media. Religion; for instance, forms a central part of the social lives of GCC communities. A significant section of media content takes into account people’s religious activities, the Islamic calendar, prayer sessions, holidays, as well as the needs and accessories that come with such activities. The Friday noontime collective prayers are recognized and the Ramadan months are predominantly filled with religious activity. Ramadan tends to bring families together and as a result, a boom in travel activity is experienced before and after Ramadan. During this period, the media broadcasts plenty of commercial advertisements and public advisory related to travel and family life. The social importance of Ramadan is usually emphasized and a lot of content on aspects of the Islam religion is produced and broadcasted. The Arabic tone dominates most of the music that is played, and aspects of Islam, the Arabic language, ethnic, and geographical differences often come up. Classical Arabic music that has dominated sections of the media contains elements of urbanizations, with more reference to Cairo. The city was a major cultural in the early Arab world, and as such, it was associated with urbanization. However, countries in the GCC have undergone rapid urbanization in recent decades. Modern communities in each GCC member have established connections with cities in their own countries. GCC is also characterized by a highly diversified geography, with fertile rural regions and deserts. As such, Arabic music that is played in the media tends to reflect this diversity.
The UAE is one peculiar small state that has experienced one of the highest influx of expatriates and regular foreigners. This has led to the proportion of those born in the UAE to fall to just about 19%. The rest of the population is comprised of foreigners from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Africa, and the West (Kinninmont, 2015). The cultural effect that results from this influx is not only related to indigenous cultures, but also related to intercultural conflicts between various foreign cultures. Language differences, beliefs, personal expectations, and behavior often come out as to be influential in these conflicts. As a result of cross-cultural miscommunications, inefficiencies may be experienced in some workplaces. Entertainment media occupies an important place in being able to highlight some of these differences. Programs that focus on the softer sides of these differences could help to support a diverse working environment. Moreover, there is need to highlight the different rates at which people of different cultures adopt to the cultures of people of GCC countries. Research has shown that the rate at which one adopts to a change in culture may be determined by their home culture. In particular, westerners who come from more liberal societies may find it easier to adopt to a different culture compared to Easterners. The level of knowledge about other people’s cultures also influences how one adopts to the different cultures. Other factors may also come into play; including one’s gender, perceived personal identity, and individual disposition. Personal identity and individual predisposition enables one to negotiate a new social and personal identity within a new culture. As foreigners settle in the GCC they need to become part of the society.
In the UAE, development has been made but there is a need for a statewide policy that would place the entertainment production and creative industry development as a national priority, generating initiatives and opportunities for its exploration. Until these objectives are met, the creative industry development and expansion is likely to be hindered in the UAE, as well as in the majority of other GCC countries.
Despite the challenges and limitations that the GCC countries face in terms of developing the creative and entertainment production industries, UK Trade and Investment (2012) specialists characterized UAE as one of the top countries in the GCC region in terms of favorability and openness of business environment. UAE is also called the safe Haven of the Middle East, since its economy is diversifying and shifting away from oil and gas specialization. Business opportunities are provided by attention not only to the large-scale construction projects and infrastructure development, but also to cultural projects in the field of creative industry and entertainment production.
Some key creative industry opportunities in the UAE are Saadiyat Island development plan with emphasis on commercial, residential, and leisure advancements, and four museums – Zayed National Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, and a maritime museum, making it a cultural district (UK Trade and Investment, 2012).
A recent project initiated in Dubai is the establishment of a Cultural District that will host a Modern Art Museum and an Opera House. The Habtoor Palace is a new creative project that is expected to include hotels, theaters, banqueting and meetings facilities, and a wide range of shopping centers. This project has collaboration between the Al Habtoor Group and the French broadcaster Fashion TV for creating a five-star Fashion Hotel (UK Trade and Investment, 2012). All these innovative projects are likely to attract more creative industry participants, and will make the UAE an even more favorable entertainment production destination.
Media entertainment has created unique political waves in the GCC. In Saudi Arabia, for instance; television comedy shows and newspaper cartoons provide a platform for political satire. Tash-ma-Tash is an exemplary television comedy broadcasted during Ramadan, and which has stirred controversy in the kingdom (Khalil & Kraidy, 2009). Content that is broadcast in entertainment media brings forth competing identities as people seek to exalt their preferred identities. Political issues that are contented in the public sphere are also brought to light and people allowed to take sides. As such, politics has become connected to media entertainment in a manner that adds power to the potential of media influence in leadership. Popular culture has grown at a fast rate in the GCC and attained very high visibility through reality shows, music, and comedy. Some of the most popular shows in the region include Super Star Al Ra’is is another show that was introduced in 2004 but it has been widely criticized and called off as a result of mass demonstrations (Khalil & Kraidy, 2009). Arab consumers tend to reject shows that contain elements diverting from their religious and cultural values. Nevertheless, some of these popular shows including Star Academy and Superstar, have gained considerable popularity in the region. To examine the trends in production and reception of such popular content, the following sections awards considerable attention to popular productions and issues surrounding the reception of the entertainment media content that is generated.
The Islam religion therefore took a strong grounding in people’s lives. It would later define most people’s culture and hence determine the forms of entertainment content that would be generated.
The Muslim Brotherhood Movement in the Gulf led to the awakening of the Arab spirit in religion and culture. It mobilized forces to oust autocratic regimes in parts of the Arab world and was most successful in Egypt and Syria. However, its influence in the whole of the Gulf region remained high. The movement gave people a new identity and would rekindle the production of appealing forms of art throughout the gulf region. The GCC benefited a lot from this new era as strong leadership structures were established and people reorganized themselves to protect and promote their countries. Economic development would then follow and entertainment media in the GCC countries would then pick up.
In the GCC media, issues of Islamic extremism are not ignored as such (Miles, 2005). They have been linked mainly to conflicts in the Middle East. The conflicts between Israel and Hamas terror group have taken a central role in the understanding of the roots of terrorism in the world. Al Jazeera and other famous TV stations in the GCC often give focus to the Middle East conflict in order to highlight the sources of negative perceptions against the Islam religion. Of particular importance to the GCC media are the terror attacks by Israel against Palestinian communities. In that case, the Palestinian community (which is predominantly composed of Muslims) is given priority when analyzing this conflict. Early support for Israel by the United States and by western powers has made it necessary for the Arab media to rise and answer to the plight of Palestinian communities. This has played a role in garnering of support among Arab nations. In turn, it has spurred criticism from the west as Arab nations are accused of funding terror groups in the Middle East. However, from the perspective of Arab Muslims, terror activities have been conducted by Israel against Palestine communities at a scale that makes Israel no better than Hamas and other terror group. Particular focus is given to the scores of innocent civilians that have been killed by bombings done by Israel soldiers. This has positioned the GCC media uniquely in international media where issues of terror are not approached in this manner. However, the GCC is playing a critical role in fighting terror ad it has contributed troops to fight against terror groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda. The GCC media also addresses critical issues on the emerging trends of terror activity in parts of West Africa, Syria, and other parts of the world. It also gives special focus on on-going terror activities within the United States. As a result, attempt is made to bring a balance to the biased view of terror in the West and to draw the GCC publics’ attention towards the underlying issues in these conflicts.
The GCC media is regulated by various laws that are mainly related to state regulation and control. They influence both the type of information that is relayed to the public as well as the forms and techniques that are used to relay this information. Essentially, the GCC states tend to own large stakes in media institutions and in some cases, the state owns the media. This determines the level of press freedom that can be enjoyed in the GCC. However, most of the media laws protect the public from various crimes that may be related to the obtaining, use, and transfer of information (Duffy, 2012). The GCC media laws also govern various issues including licensing of media outlets, certification and licensing of journalists among other critical issues. Cybercrime laws have also been established as a response to the increased penetration of the internet within the region. Governments in the GCC have however faced challenges in creating comprehensive laws as a result of changes in broadcasting technologies and international influence in public perception about their freedoms. As a result, it has become difficult to combat crimes related to false news and unconstructive criticism of the government.
In Kuwait, article 17 of the country’s media law shifts the burden of truthful reporting to editors. They are expected to verify the accuracy of information that is to be relayed to the public. Oman’s media law also prohibits any untrue information from being relayed to the public through the media. The country’s penal code (Article 135) goes to the extent of prohibiting information that may cause harm to the country’s currency value (IREX, 2014). These legal provisions tend to focus on punishing the act of relaying “false” information. However, the truth can be more complicated and difficult to prove. The situations in which these provisions may be invoked are also numerous. One case can be interpreted differently by more than one person, and as such, the truth tends to be relative in such cases.
6. Audiovisual media entertainment production impacts in the GCC states (empirical part according to the model).
6.2 Comparison of the six GCC states
This section applies the developed framework to examine Entertainment Production in the GCC states. The analysis addresses all the factors in the theoretical framework.
Saudi Arabia is not considered a small state in the GCC. The rest of the GCC members are the small states. One of the greatest techniques in the production of entertainment media content is the ability to create characters and assign them identities to which the audience can relate. The Saudis have undergone a series of struggles in the effort of creating a unified Saudi national identity. The Saudi king that spearheaded these developments was known as Abdul Aziz (Peterson, 2003). The techniques that he used to garner support from various territories impacted on the people’s understanding of the Saudi identity. The king used religious influence and trade to bring unity and power to the Saudi kingdom. In fact, the Islam religion has continued to influence the Arab culture and is a great factor in the production of media content in the GCC. The current anti-western and anti-American sentiment in the GCC entertainment media can also be traced back to the rebellion that ensued as the clergy opposed western culture and the increase of Saudis that were seeking western education abroad. These young people were thought to be transforming the cultures of the region by adopting undesirable western behavior. Some of them got into drug abuse and other immoral behavior. In the early 1970s, the KSA began to reject oil trade relations with the US. It acquired ownership of Arab American oil companies which led to an increase in the country’s revenues (Madawi, 2002). The Saudis continued to hold onto religious values. This would be used by various rebel groups who accused the government of tolerating immorality and compromising Islamic values. They garnered support and attempted Holy Mecca mosque. After repelling these attacks, the Saudi ruling family reinforced Islamic values by suppressing foreign cultures and giving the control of education to the clergy. They also extended their influence to the rest of the Arab world.
Many other reforms have been instituted in the KSA to extend people’s freedoms and reduce the government and religions control over education and media entertainment. The inclusion of women in higher education has also improved and they are now taking up roles in science, social sciences, and entertainment. The impacts of western education on the Saudi population have been reignited. More Saudis now seek education in western universities. Women have been allowed to compete in international sports. The country now produces female competitors for the Olympics and other sporting events. This has facilitated a relaxation of extreme religious restrictions against women and non-Muslims. Women also participate in films and take up roles in directing, management and other areas that were dominated by men (GCC Olympics Committee, 2015). Al Mansour is an exemplary female film director who has won international awards for her work in the industry. Reforms in government have also ensured that minority ethnic and religious groups are allocated slots in various ministries. This improves equitable access to national resources and reduces suppression of non-vocal groups in the kingdom. It also allows talent diversity to thrive and creates opportunities for the production of quality content in the entertainment industry. Such an environment is likely to remove socioeconomic barriers that have been faced by the industry for decades. The king is also cautious not to let a liberal culture on the loose as he maintains the roles of the clergy in various sections of formal education and governance.
Entertainment Production in the other States
This section applies the theoretical framework to the GCC Small states in order to compare their entertainment production, and identify opportunities and challenges.
The Gulf entertainment media production is influenced and developed by the support provided by ruling families, independent supporters, and the sociopolitical environment of the day. A detailed view of the PETL aspects that have characterized the GCC entertainment media production in its entirety and the entertainment media production of small states of the GCC is represented in this section. The section also takes a comparative approach of the entertainment media in the GCC states. A detailed analysis is also done for one state. The section that follows this section will examine the impacts of entertainment media production on the GCC in its entirety.
Various factors have influenced the advancement of production of entertainment media content in the GCC. These factors have influenced both the content and the availability of resources (including a favorable environment) for production of entertainment. Changes in the state of the industry have been spearheaded by shifts in political control of the Gulf.
Media entertainment production in Kuwait is influenced by a myriad of factors ranging from the size of the country’s economy, sociopolitical issues related to its position in the GCC as well as on the global scene, and complex internal cultural, sociopolitical, and legal issues. The country’s position on the sea route influenced its early developments in trade and culture. Ancient Greeks occupied Filaka Island as the earliest traders in the region and later on the Persian Empire conquered Kuwait (Archeological Institute of America, 2013). Kuwaiti merchants traded in pearls and fish. They influenced aspects of political control of the Al Sabah which impacted on the development of the region’s culture. Later on, the Ottomans took up the southern part of Kuwait. They would later give it up when the British took control of Kuwait in the 20th Century. The British then established their rule firmly in Kuwait until 1961 when Kuwait gained its independence to become a sovereign state (CIA World Factbook, 2012).
The effects of Baghdad and Beirut elements in the entertainment scene of Kuwait is also influential to the industry’s performance. These elements have been established by Kuwaiti repatriates who returned from these areas after the events of the Iraqi invasion and in the Iran-Iraq war. Elements of Iraqi cultures in the Kuwait media entertainment were potentially contentious in the post-Gulf war era but the country’s progress in areas of democracy has subdued these sentiments. The Kuwaiti television broadcasts most of these elements in various entertainment programs. The Kuwaiti audience is also able to tune in to regional satellite television channels that represent the general sentiment of the GCC publics. They also consume American and Japanese content in films and literature. The large numbers of Kuwaitis that travelled abroad to seek western education also brought home a unique set of foreign content for the industry. Having acquired tolerance for multiple cultures, the country has also been able to tolerate criticism against leadership through media entertainment. The only restrictions that exist safeguard the royal family and Islam from extreme criticism. The highly diverse economic structure also makes the Kuwaiti nationals to be a unique market for higher volumes of content. The economic classes interact in various areas such as education, business, and leisure. As a result classism has not thrived to create narrow-mindedness towards any specific content. The issues of the less affluent are just as popular as those of the affluent. Such an environment makes it easier for the media to generate content with ease and obtain a market for it.
Having experienced one of the fastest growths in the region, the Kuwaiti entertainment production industry has acquired some unique features that make it to be distinct from most other GCC media industries. One of these features is that both the wealthy conservative groups and liberals have taken up equal positions in the industry. The roles that were played by the wealthy merchants in regulating the powers of the ruling family technically contributed to this effect. The merchants sought to eliminate segregation based on class as they did not want to grant excessive control to the topmost class – the ruling family. They achieved this by patronizing western democracy and advocating for an effective legal system. This served their interests in many areas, but it also provided avenues for lower classes to acquire representation. The middle class and the working class could utilize the fair chances that were created in education and other areas to establish their position in the market for media entertainment, and in other areas of Kuwait’s social life. Their tastes and talents have pooled together a great resource for the development, distribution, and consumption of entertainment I Kuwait. Another characteristic feature that has made the Kuwaiti media entertainment production industry to stand out is; the rapid urbanization of the Kuwait capital. This provided a unique environment for art, music, culture, and other forms of entertainment to prosper. Such environment also provides a vital competitive environment for various forms of entertainment. As such, people’s tastes are refined or diversified and more sophisticated forms of entertainment gain their entry into the market. The rapid urbanization of Kuwait’s capital was also accompanied by an injection of western media content. Given the level of development of western media at the time of this development, the Kuwait entertainment media had to cope to sophisticated views at a faster rate than it would have done without foreign influence. Elements of liberalism were acquired and this would later lead to tolerance for multiple cultural elements. This desensitization was important for Kuwait’s entertainment media to develop in a nation with multiple cultures and a dynamic political environment.
Kuwait’s oil resources have facilitated the development of its media entertainment industry for a long time. They influenced the regions culture and the country’s ability to repel the intrusion of neighboring powers. In particular, the British had protected Kuwait’s interior cultural autonomy and leadership in exchange for access to oil resources. As a result, Kuwait developed a stable leadership structure and a diverse culture. Kuwaiti merchants helped to keep the ruling family in check and allow for individual autonomy and freedoms in the developing Kuwait. This stability was once threatened by the uprising of Sheikh Mubarak who sought to impose his rule over Kuwaitis by opposing the ruling family. The sheikh also managed to garner support from the British but the Al Sabah repelled them from the city centers and they gave up in 1909. Kuwait’s cultural relations with Iraq had influenced the development of its entertainment industry before this relations were foiled by Iraq’s belligerence. The country experienced attacks from Iraq immediately after gaining independence. Iraq had considered Kuwait to be part of its territory. Before this; members of the Kuwaiti entertainment media had been attending festivals and entertainment events in Baghdad. Artists from Kuwait took their exhibitions to the Saddam art fairs. In fact, the onset of the Gulf war made them to lose all the work that had been kept in Baghdad’s galleries. Kuwaiti’s political position in these engagements was strongly supported by western powers which detested Saddam’s belligerence and also strived to protect their interests in Kuwait (Salem & Al-Sarah, 2011). In fact, Kuwait had always been friendly to Iraq and had loaned it money to support Iraq’s war against Iran. Iraq also attempted to decline repaying the loan and wished to annex Kuwait instead. The countries also disagreed on the ownership of oil reserves on the border and Iraq accused Kuwait of technically drilling its oil from within Kuwait. Saddam had also employed propaganda to garner support from the Kuwaiti public. As such, his invasion would be easier as little resistance would be received from the public. However, the ruling family obtained critical support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The KSA marshalled military support for the family within Kuwait and from foreign western powers. As such, the Kuwaiti public’s role in the war was neutralized and the citizens would later watch political influence play out to determine their fate. These political tensions and the Gulf war that ensued have defined relationships between Kuwait and Iraq. Kuwait has always strived to differentiate itself from the style of politics and leadership that is used in Iraq and has maintained strong ties with the west. The defeat of Iraq also created a freer environment for Kuwaiti industries to thrive.
The GCC’s media influence on the events of the Gulf war played out as a unique factor in drawing victory for Kuwait. This was a characteristic development in the capacity of this media in international politics. Saudi Arabia’ campaigns and the testimony of Kuwait’s ruling family on international media drew sympathy for Kuwait and resentment for Iraq’s government. The opinion of western powers over Saddam’s leadership also changed and he was always understood as to be troublesome. As a result, the west always sought to impose control over his powers and influence in the GCC. The result of these perceptions in the international media were enormous. Saddam’s dictatorship was put on the limelight for many decades thereafter. The international media understood him to be a threat to the stability of the GCC, and the western media portrayed him as a threat to world peace. As such, the Kuwaiti media was relieved of the burden of dealing with Saddam’s belligerence in the region. Kuwait had lost a large number of cultural assets in the war and most of its skilled population had left. As such the entertainment media had suffered the loss of an immense variety of resources in the war. Iraqi soldiers had also looted valuable pieces of art from its galleries and a wide range of content from museums. Some of Kuwait’s physical infrastructure had also been destroyed. Other post-war effects on the entertainment media production also followed as the country focused on reviving its economy. The art industry would later reorganize itself from the set of Islamic art that had been salvaged in the crisis. The cultural landscape also changed as some cultural groups (especially Palestinians) diminished via emigration and South Asians increased. Kuwaiti citizens that endured the war and its effects gained a great sense of nationalism as they focused on getting back to their normal lives. Media content has also been characterized by nationalist ideologies, most of which have supported democracy and tolerated western influence in Kuwait’s sociopolitical and economic development. The ruling family has also employed efficient tactics in maintaining order in Kuwait and retaining its power and control. It has counteracted the moves by rebellious groups by welcoming elites in the monarchy and distributing power to cater for the needs of various ethnic groups in Kuwait. It has even included women in governance and also included less affluent families in the leadership structure.
Kuwaiti entertainment media has been supported by a relatively tolerant environment that has facilitated the diversification of content and media freedom. The country has experienced both interesting and appalling developments in its path towards democracy. Western principles of democracy have been engraved in the constitution and the ruling family has retained significant control through special executive powers (Salem & Al-Sarah, 2009). The parliament is composed of elected officials who keep the executive powers of the ruling family in check. The ruling family makes appointments to most powerful positions in the judiciary and legislature. On the other hand, the Kuwaiti public has gained significant influence in the politics of the country. As a result of the freedoms that are enjoyed by the media, people can access a lot of information that enlightens them on issues of leadership and democracy. Eight governments have been taken down in the last decade. They have also been able to change the political landscape by elevating the opposition to power. The executive has been able to use its control and influence on the judiciary to overturn such moves. For instance, the parliament that was elected by the people in 2012 was scrapped off and the previous one reinstated. This has created an interesting interplay between a monarchial system and western-style democracy in Kuwait. The entertainment media is able to ride on the support of both elements.
In Bahrain, the entertainment media has faced multiple transformations both in pre-independence and post-independence eras. As one of the small states of the GCC, Bahrain has been in the center of several regional power shifts. It served as a hub for ancient civilization from as early as the 3rd millennium BCE (Nelida, 2009). The region also experienced an early influx in trade as it supplier copper between Indus valley and Mesopotamia. Several empires exchanged the ownership of Bahrain. It is also the first regions to gain a deep rooting of Islam in the GCC area. The various ancient powers that controlled Bahrain impacted on its earliest civilization. Later on tribal wars ensued and monarchies ensued before British rule descended on Bahrain in late 19th Century. In the process of these power exchanges, Bahrain’s entertainment media experienced shifts in the cultural, economic, religious, and political sources of content and changes in the consumption of such content (British Empire n.d).
Trade and urbanization provided stability in the supply of essential resources for the development of Bahrain’s earliest entertainment media industry. The Manama port city had served as a famous trade center in the region attracting traders in pearls and fish from Oman, Arabia, India, Persia, and Europe (Nelida, 2009). Slave traders also infiltrated ancient Bahrain. One characteristic feature of early Bahraini demographics that led to the present-day blend of cultures is the fact that; early settlers and traders of Bahrain emerged from all over the Gulf and beyond. Furthermore, the region provided a suitable hub for a variety of economic activities including: agriculture, fishing, trade, and pearl diving. The interaction of these foreign populations in Bahrain would later result in a highly diverse population with no cultural dominance from any of its sub-populations. Resultantly, Bahrain did not undergo severe ethnic conflicts like most regions of the GCC. After regimes of Portuguese, Oman, and Arabian empires, the British took over Bahrain in order to use its strategic location in imposing regional control over the Gulf. Bahrain then began to experience urbanization as the British drilled its oil fields and expanded their rule in the region. The country therefore experienced the development of institutions earlier than the rest of the GCC. The British also imposed order and abolished the suppression of minority tribes in the region. They also established a strong base in the country, which made Bahrain to remain secure from external invasion. As such, the Bahraini sociocultural environment thrived under the British rule. This provided a conducive environment for art and other forms of entertainment to thrive. In the later parts of the 20th Century, Bahrain began to integrate itself into the Arab world. This has impacted on its political standing in the region. It also allowed for the Arab culture to thrive in the country. As such, the Bahraini entertainment media would later on thrive under an Arabicized society. It would dwell on regional issues and Islamic ideology. This promoted the peaceful coexistence of Bahrain and its neighbors. Moreover, the neighboring countries had a dominance of Arab, and as such, the demographics of Bahrain would naturally adjust to include more of them as people moved around to settle in regions that were experiencing political stability and economic development.
Due to the level of peaceful coexistence of multiple cultures in Bahrain, the Bahraini entertainment media has inclined itself to facilitate a balanced inclusion of the needs of a diverse population. Significant focus has been awarded to progressive areas of media entertainment such as art and design, architecture, and music as well as to areas of economic and political development. In particular, areas of political and economic development received a lot of attention in Bahraini media. The country had experienced more progress in these areas than other GCC countries. As a result, issues of governance have always been addressed in the media and as a result, opposition politics has thrived in the country. Different groups have been able to organize themselves based on common interests and present their issues through media campaigns. Workers’ unions and political activists have gained significant attention in the media as they organize and participate in demonstrations and other forms of mass action. The Bahraini media has not been impacted by strong elements of autocracy as was experienced in many parts of the GCC. As such, the entertainment media has been able to enjoy a large amount of freedom in broadcasting contentious issues in politics and religion. This makes it to be well-positioned in meeting the demands of an ambitious population that has enjoyed peaceful existence and development for many decades. The people of Bahrain have successfully pushed several issues in the media, including: the need to reduce unemployment, equal representation in the national identity, and a wide range of legal issues. As a result, landmark reforms have been achieved including; the reduction of unemployment rated and the establishment of employment benefits.
Bahrain’s entertainment media has been affected by periodical censorships and legal caps by the government, especially over individual journalists. These includes journalists who focus on criticizing the government and those who are thought to be a threat to internal peace. As a result of the regional civil unrests, the Bahraini government has been keen on monitoring public sentiments that are conveyed in the media. It considers Bahrain to be susceptible to the political dynamics of its neighbors. As such, the country tends to emulate some of its neighbors’ media regulations which has made it to come under sharp international criticism. International observers have been able to assemble various pieces of facts on the levels of freedom that are provided to journalists by the Bahraini media.
Most recent reports are based on the political events that have characterized Bahrain, and how the government has responded to the flow of various pieces of information within the country. The media sustainability index is a common indicator that is used to try and paint a picture on the levels of press freedom within countries. The index allocates a score to a country’s media by checking its performance on various factors such as: how the social and legal systems influence freedom of expression, the professional standards of journalisms, the availability of multiple media outlets to provide independent information for public comparison, how media enterprises are managed, and the level of support that is given to media institutions in order to create an independent media (IREX, 2012). Bahrain has been ranked low on the index due to the level of control that the state has over the media. In the recent ratings, the observers base most of the low scores on the Arab Spring events and how the government has reacted to the elements of the media that supported the flow of information among protestors. Further attention is drawn to the political issues related to appointments in government ministries, the prosecution of journalists, and the roles of the Bahraini legislature in protecting press freedom. From the kind of information that is presented by these observers, it is clear that international observers overlook the core issues that characterize the Bahraini media. No attention is given to the analysis of public sentiment in issues that touch on cultural differences and historical changes that have shaped Bahraini people’s understanding of their sociopolitical environment. As such, the observers excel in measuring their pre-determined factors but fail to provide practical recommendations on the way forward. Similarly, the government excels in solving some of the issues that curtail the freedom of the media but is limited in its ability to grand full freedom. The limitations range from political issues to socioeconomic and cultural issues.
The rise of the Arab culture in Bahrain also boosts the country’s entertainment industry. A majority of them are Muslims and they have influenced Bahrain’s art industry. They have also infused Islamic architecture into Bahrain so as to be able to conduct various Islamic festivities like Ramadan, celebration of Prophet Mohammed’s (pbuh) birthday, and general religious activities. Open spaces have been developed in the city to accommodate free movement of people during such festivities. Bahrain’s art began to flourish in 1950 and art clubs were established by 1960. Professionals in literature also established organizations for collecting and studying various forms of literature. The Bahrain visual arts industry then began to grow. Artists such as Rashid Oraifi and Nasser Yousif brought various elements of art to this industry. The industry has also grown due to the establishment of modern galleries. An annual art exhibition also takes place in the capital. The exhibition has been running for about 40 years. A vibrant society of artists has also been in place since 1983. Theatres such as Awal theatre have remained popular in Bahrain for more than six decades. A national museum has also been in place for 27 years. As such, Bahrain has been collecting essential elements of its cultures and heritage for its national museum longer than any of the other GCC states. In the museum, a collection of material on natural history, culture, religion, pearl fishing and diving, music, the social lives of Bahrainis among other content. These collections provide a unique source of foundational content for entertainment producers. It also helps to nurture creativity and impart knowledge to potential actors, writers, movie makers and other players in the media entertainment industry.
Bahrain’s traditional music styles are widely listened to across the country. One such style is the Khaleeji style (Partrick, 2009). Solo performers and bands use it to compose music that can be performed in social places and played in the media. The Bahraini entertainment media also plays other styles of music that contain elements of Indian, Persian, and African music. Young Bahrainis also provide a market for contemporary music. They listen to pop music and a considerable audience is available for progressive rock. The Osiris band is one of the best known bands for progressive rock in Bahrain. A section of the Bahraini audience also listens to metal rock, Arab-American pop, and a wide range of western styles of music. The Bahraini film industry also generates a wide range of content for the Bahraini audience. Both short and long films have been produced in the country. They also include productions by foreign filmmakers. Films such as “The Barrier” by Bassm Al-Thawadi represented Bahraini’s earliest success in local film production. Success in the production of such content has also inspired devoted artists and designers to advocate for the preservation of more content in the national museum. Their efforts and those of the Ministry of Information and Culture have yielded in the implementation of a number projects such as the Fort Museum, the Khalifa Cultural Center, Al-Riwaq, Nadine, and Albareh art galleries, among other projects. Documentary films on Bahrain’s cultures and diversity have also been made. These productions have helped to build a lively entertainment industry in Bahrain. Potential talents are also built as young performers, producers, and writers are able to get a feel of the expectations of Bahraini consumers. They are also able to understand the trends that are common in the industry.
Qatar’s ruling family are descendants of the House of Thani, who were part of the Banu Tamim tribe of Saudi Arabia. They originated from Saudi Arabia. Their rise to the leadership of Qatar began when their tribe conquered Bahrain and large sections of Qatar. The rival tribal powers of that time did not pursue the conquest of Qatar with zeal because it was thought to lack resources. The House of Thani took over Qatar and lived in various regions before settling at Doha. The British found them at Doha and negotiated treaties with them in order to take control of the region. A few decades later, oil was discovered in Qatar. The Thani ruling family remained royal to the British throughout their reign in the Gulf. When the British left in 1971, Qatar became an independent country. It maintained a strong military that is loyal to the ruling family (Kamrava, 2009). The coup and coup attempts that happened in recent decades were between members of the family. As such, the family has maintained a tight grip on Qatar. The formation of the UAE in the region also had an indirect positive effect on the security of Qatar and other regions of the Persian Gulf.
The media entertainment industry of Qatar has been facilitated by its oil resources for quite a long time. The country’s ability to maintain peace at its borders and peace with world powers has influenced its growth. By adopting flexible foreign policies, it has also been able to allow for various cultures to thrive in the country as well as develop favorable policies towards Islam. The protection that it had received from the British safeguarded its cultural autonomy and protected its leadership from being influenced by extreme regional policies on issues of religion and anti-western ideologies. As a result, Qatar developed a stable leadership structure and a diversified approach towards culture. The ruling family has not encountered any significant oppositions because of its monopoly in the country. The rapid growth of Qatar’s economy has attracted an enormous inflow of expatriates from all over the world. The country relaxed its immigrant policies to allow for this to happen. Its main aim was to bring diverse skills and talent to the region in order to foster economic development. The activities of the United States in the country has also influenced its standing in global politics. The military base that is maintained by the US in Qatar has helped to boost the fight against terror and insecurity in the Gulf. It was one of the main command center in the region during the US invasion of Iraq. While maintaining essential ties with the west, Qatar has also cultivated a social and legal environment that favors the Islamic religion and culture. This has boosted its relations with its neighbors. As such Qatar’s has been very successful in foreign relations. This has been matched by an increase in media entertainment activities, and Qatar is widely publicized as to be a great country.
The political landscape of Qatar defines the Qatar media entertainment production in its entirety. The current ruler, Shaykh Hamad began his publicity campaigns in the Qatar state media immediately after taking power from his father through a coup. The main aim was to restore public confidence in the leadership and regain the confidence of his family. The Qatar media has been focused on issues of democratic reform that are promised by their ruler. He has achieved a significant amount of reforms in the country. These include gender equality in voting rights and the formulation of a new constitution in 2003. These changes have brought a new set of conditions for the Qatar media:
First of all, the Qatar economy has been able to grow and this impacts positively on the media’s access to markets for its various forms of content. This growth has been facilitated by the oil industry. The industry began to grow in 1970 when the nation’s production attained a 500, 000 barrels/day peak. When the production started to decline, the country took steps towards re-energizing its business strategies and attracting foreign investment. It began to engage various oil companies that would supply the needed technologies to increase production. The country maintained its control over the management of the industry but increased incentives for these companies. It also adopted transparent business policies. Drilling activity increased and operations on initially-dormant reserves like the Al-Shaheen began increase. Production increased by more than 100% in 2000. It has then stabilized at above 760,000 b/d. It has also unveiled the 14th largest gas reserves in the world. This has been facilitated by effective management of reservoirs and revenues by the government of Qatar (Kamrava, 2009). It has also been paralleled by the increase in the availability of skilled and semiskilled labor in the country.
Graph showing Qatar’s purely crude oil productions (in brown) and all-oils (including condensates) production (in blue) (Peak Oil Barrel, 2015)
Qatar become a multicultural center as a result of its growing economy. It is now ranked highly as a potential center for business (World Economic Forum, 2015). These developments have been facilitated predominantly by expatriates. As a result, The Qatar media entertainment production supplies a rather diverse society. This society has also been structured on the basis of political and economic stratifications. An interesting social influence has been also imposed on the public by the autocratic-style of leadership. The ruling family is immensely influential to all sections of the media. It has been able to maintain internal peace and order for people to enjoy entertainment from various centers industry; such as art, music, dance, film, and other types of entertainment. The power behind media censorships lies in the structure of Qatar’s leadership. The nation’s current government has been founded purely on military power – especially on the influence that the rulers have on their military. This leads to a relatively high imbalance between the power that people can exercise through democracy and that which the ruling family can exercise. Another support structure to Qatar’s ability to control sociocultural lives of the people through media censorship lies in its foreign relations strategy. The world powers that have good relations with Qatar need it direly in various areas of the regions geopolitics. The United States, for instance; needs to watch over Iranian activities on a straight through which essential international trade supplies have to pass. This makes it important for it to establish a strong military presence in the region. Moreover, the US sees Qatar as to be less tolerant to extremist Islamic ideology. Qatar has maintained an indifferent position towards the common and opposing versions of Islam in the region. In as much as the ruling family publicizes its allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood version, it maintains a strategic internal environment to allow its citizens access to western education and also maintains good relations with the west. As such, extremist ideologies are kept at bay due to a technical internal structure. The country has also reinforced elements of Islamic rule in the social framework of its people through constitutional law but the ruling family maintains its position as the final determinant of how these laws are enforced. As such, religious tolerance has been maintained in Qatar and expatriates are made to understand that Islam is the official religion.
Despite of its conservative leadership, Oman has a rich cultural diversity. This includes a diverse culture that was drawn to Oman during its ancient periods of power and control in the region. The Sultanate was so powerful that it extended its influence far down to Zanzibar (Hoffman, 2004). It was also able to conquer Iran and many parts of the Persian Gulf. The ancient Omanis engaged in the building of ships and sailing. As such, they were able to access extensive areas of the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. They defeated the Portuguese by ousting them from Fort Jesus (in Mombasa). The Omanis were also religious and are believed to have been the first Muslims. Their trade activities and imperialism was largely respected by the British who would later moderate conflicts between various Omani tribes. The Omanis also traded in slaves. As a result, they took up a large population of Africans to work as slaves in Oman. During their rule in Zanzibar, they built up magnificent structures that have created beautiful sceneries on the Island this day.
As a result of having indigenous forms of culture and religion, Oman provides content that can be used to develop informative media entertainment content. For instance, Oman has one very unique form of Islam known as Ibadism. The difference between it and the other versions of Islam shows the core source of multiple Islamic cultures in the Arab world. These versions differ on the identity of the successor of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The Sunnis hold onto the line of Muawiya while the Shias insist on Ali As to have been the rightful successor of the prophet. The Ibadis believe that the rightful successor was known as ibn-Wahb al-Rasibi. This has formed a pivotal point for the divergence of Islam into the three branches. This divergence has also impacted on the later sub-versions of Islam. The Omani Ibadi Muslims have gained protection from their ruler and as a result, they have not been engaged in conflicts such as those that characterize the Shia and Sunni in some regions of the Arab world. The Sultanate’s capital is at Nizwa, and serves as the central place of Ibadi Imam. The religion is also spread in Zanzibar and in some areas of North Africa. Similarly, most of the Ibadis in these areas have not faced serious conflicts with believers from other forms of Islam. The Omanis’ believes have significantly shaped their cultural practices and conceptualization of their world. This is a reality that the Omani entertainment media has to deal with.
The earliest forms of media production in the pre-UAE region were by British media. The content was only newscasts and public alerts on various issues. The emirates had been pursuing their agenda’s individually and were not united before 1971. The British had vested economic interests in the region’s oil resources and pearl trade. As such they focused on maintaining a grip over all of the emirates for as long as they could acquire their interests in the region. The indigenous UAE tribes were the Al Bu Falah and Bani Yas, Al Ain, Liwa, Al Bahrayn coast, Dhawahir, Manasir, Awamir, Sharqiyin, and Qawasim (Heard-Bey, 2001). They were involved in various economic activities such as fishing, pearling, agriculture, and most importantly; piracy. It is the piracy that made the British to impose its rule on these tribe’s Sheikhdoms in order to allow the British-India trade to prosper. As a result, they signed treaties with the rulers of the Sheikhdoms and took control of the region. That way, they controlled the people’s activities from inside the kingdom and also controlled the oil resources of the Sheikhdoms. The people of the Emirates focused on pearling as the main economic activity. They traded with Indians for a considerably long amount of time. This could explain the significant South Asian population within the UAE. The British ruled the emirates under one territory known as “Trucial Coast” (Potter, 2009). During this time, the elements of culture that had been brought by ancient Persians and East African communities remained embedded in the population. Entertainment in forms of music and dance (Bedouin folk music and Liwa dance) and festivals was subdued by colonialism. The UAE’s economy was fused with the Indian economy and the Indian currency became the official medium of exchange. As such, the emirate’s interests were overshadowed by those of the British. This would continue for decades and the region’s cultural framework was disintegrated (Potter, 2009). The pearl trade also collapsed and the population diminished in the 1930s. This was a significant blow to the remaining cultural elements. The emirate’s people would later be subjected to full British control as it was necessary for the colonial power to supplement its dwindling revenues from other areas of the economy. The Trucial Coast began to develop institutions in the 1950s. Shortly thereafter, the British expressed their intentions to withdraw their military protection of the region. This would lead to a resurgence of Iranian raids. It would also mark the independence of the region from colonial rule. When the date for Britain’s withdrawal arrived, the Iranians approached and attacked; taking over two Islands. Other neighboring kingdoms also began to claim parts of the Trucial Coast. This forced the Emirates to unite and form a strong defense for the territory in 1971. This was the formation of the UAE. It also represented a new beginning for the region’s sociocultural life and a revival of entertainment in the region.
The UAE Government earnestly supports the dynamic entertainment industry. Media organizations in the nation have made advancements quantitatively and qualitatively. The domestic home media including newspapers, magazines, radio stations, satellite and analogue television are flourishing. Significant global media associations have secured a base camp in media zones; examples are twofour54 in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Media City, Fujairah Creative City, and RAK Media City (Starr, 2004).
UAE has eight English-dialect daily papers and many magazines and periodicals. TV channels have increased exponentially with the introduction of satellite television. In Dubai, over 1,400 specialized organizations work out of the media free zones, with 60 TV organizations running more than 150 stations. There are 120 publishers processing about four hundred productions (Starr, 2004).
In media free zones in Abu Dhabi, there are 135 organizations generating and circulating print and varying media content. Media free zones in Fujairah and Ra’s al-Khaimah host many radio and TV organizations. In addition, associations like the Dubai Press Club, Sharjah Media Center and the UAE Journalists’ Association, neighborhood media outlets, and several authorized remote media reporters in the UAE help create a vivacious environment for the media (Starr, 2004). The authorized news organizations Emirates News Agency (WAM) or Wakalat Anba’a al-Emarat transmit news and photos every day by satellite in Arabic and English from the central station in Abu Dhabi. WAM has journalists and business locales in numerous universal capital urban areas around the world (Thierer & Brian, 2008).
The National Media Council gives proper administrative cover to data and information interchanges. In March 2013, a consultative chamber for the National Media Council was created, incorporating scholars and delegates of media associations. State Law No. 15 enacted in 1980 in relation to Press and print media secures regulation of media in the UAE, supplemented by government regulations on media substance enacted on 10 November 2010, and TV and Radio regulation issued on 11 May 2011 Council (Flanagan, 2013).
Though Dubai’s media industry pulled in more than 250 new players in 2012, there are some essential issues that hinder further development. The Telecom Media Cluster which includes Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and the International Media Production Zone (IMPZ), saw rapid increase of organizations since 2013; there are presently over 1,800 partners in the center (Flanagan, 2013). There have been demands from the west and even China and India to do film and TV preparation in Dubai. The Telecom’s media free zones pulled in new business associates including Euronews, Ticketmaster, and Getty Images.
The administration of Telecom Media Cluster forecast high development in five key zones of the media industry in 2013 including advanced distribution, web promoting, and film and TV creation. Some difficulties that thwart the advancement of local capacities are an absence of subsidies from the government and piracy. The print business has been through a significant battle over the recent years, particularly with the lack of monetary subsidence (Flanagan, 2013).
Atlas Group has an expert printing press at IMPZ which generates fifty-two worldwide daily papers on an “on demand” premise for customers including a percentage of the locale’s real carriers. The organization has the ability to access more than 1,900 worldwide titles, which it can print in daily paper design. Notably, the Daily Mail is more popular in Dubai than it is in the United Kingdom. Such developments imply that print is still suitable even in the computerized age (Flanagan, 2013).
Many difficulties still exist for the Middle East’s media industry. According to the managing producer at Blink Studios, the Arab world depends excessively on foreign TV designs while not making enough unique material of its own. It is desirable that UAE stops importing media substance and begins trading on its own. For this, UAE has to stop imitating and start creating unique formats (Thierer and Brian, 2008).
Other media zones in the ICT division have seen higher business enrolments. According to the chief of Dubai Internet City (DIC) and Dubai Outsource Zone, DIC saw 175 new enrolments in the most recent year. These incorporated the social networking majors Facebook and Linkedin which set up business locales in Dubai in 2012 (Thierer and Brian, 2008). The chief at the business site has said that he saw “exceptionally viable patterns” in the Middle East and North Africa’s media industry. Revenues for the media are rising and online revenue is developing much quicker than the rest (Thierer and Brian, 2008).
Notwithstanding the increasing advertising incomes, not all media organizations are profiting. The general media industry is not beneficial; MBC is among the few media organizations that are making reasonable profit out of the entertainment industry. MBC Group is behind TV slots including MBC1 and the Al Arabiya news station, and english.alarabiya.net (Wilke, 2013). There are over 650 TV stations in the area, with the main 50 TV stations pulling between ninety and ninety five percent of the media income. Thus, over 600 channels are battling for the remaining five to ten percent of the revenue pie.
Realizing the part movies/ films play in society, Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on June 26, 2007 with New York Film Academy to make a world-class film and acting school for creating films in the UAE. The Abu Dhabi Film Academy, which opened in January 2008, helped ADACH to develop a backing for local imaginative talent and to have an environment conducive for social and aesthetic representation (Flanagan, 2013).
With substantial interest for film production in Abu Dhabi, Masoud Amralla Al Ali, Art Director of the UAE Cultural Foundation established the Emirates Film Competition, based at the Cultural Foundation (Cousins, 2006). With government’s dynamic support, the first Middle East International Film Festival was held in Abu Dhabi from 14 to 19 October 2007 with more than one hundred movies from thirty eight nations eyeing the Black Pearl awards. Film composing master-classes facilitated by the Film Financing Circle, and events uniting global financiers and film producers opened doors on new filmmaking in the Middle East with special focus on movies by Arab women (Flanagan, 2013).
The Film Commission showcases local films at popular international festivals and educates the world about the advantages of filming outstanding productions in Abu Dhabi. The collaboration between Aldar Properties, Abu Dhabi Media Company and Warner Brothers Entertainment in September 2007 has had a significant effect on the advancement of film business in Abu Dhabi. Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has as its premise as ‘Bridging Cultures – Meeting Minds’, and sees itself not just a social representative of the UAE but also as an impetus for future advancement of the film business in the nation. In addition, DIFF provides a linkage between UAE and global movie producers, makers as well as sales agents (Flanagan, 2013).
Sharjah: Cultural development strategies
Sharjah has served as an essential source of resources to the UAE’s entertainment media. Its port had served as an entry point for tourists and traders, especially from India. The country has beautiful beaches, an astounding diverse marine life, a rich culture, among other resources. Its impact to the entertainment industry had been suppressed by poor leadership. The emirate’s economy fell in the late 1980s due to the accumulation of debts. It would later on be bailed by the other emirates. Since then, its cultural and socioeconomic development has remained tied to the other emirates. Saudi Arabia has also imposed a cultural influence on Sharjah through restrictions related to the loans that it has given to Sharjah. However, Sharjah’s relations with Abu Dhabi and Dubai have brought a new twist to its socioeconomic and cultural development. A large section of the population of people that are working in Dubai resides in Sharjah. Its industrial sector is also developing and its port is becoming a busy exit point for exports. These developments have provided Sharjah with resources to develop its entertainment industry. This is being achieved through the development of various sources of entertainment content. The emirate has developed 17 museums and has once been declared as to be the world’s cultural capital by UNESCO. The ruler of Sharjah has invested significant effort in promoting literary creativity. He is a writer and he organizes book fairs in the emirate. He has also established Sharjah’s foundation for supporting art which organizes various entertainment events on art and other related performances.
In order to add substance to the efforts that are being made towards motivating artists, and other players in Sharjah’s entertainment, the emirate has embarked on the development and maintenance of valuable sceneries provided by natural resources and cultural practices of Sharjah’s people.
Dubai’s media entertainment industry has benefited from the long-term investments that have been brought to the region by various traders and laborers. The earliest group of traders that brought a significant impact on Dubai’s culture and economy were Iranian Bandar-e Lengeh (Williamson, 1971). They were settled at Bastakiyya which has become Dubai’s Al Fahidi cultural village. The busiest free trade region was and is still at Jebel Ali. Adequate infrastructure was built in the region to attract foreign traders. Soon after the emirate became a busy trading zone, it began to invest in modern infrastructure. Skyscrapers were built in the region and modern transportation established. This led to the development an ultra-modern city in a desert. Subsequently, an urban culture thrived in Dubai. The city has continued to invest massively in modern infrastructure, hence creating office spaces for various industries (including the media), recreational parks for the public, luxurious hotels, among many other services that support the production of entertainment and many other areas of its economy (Youseff & Piane 2015). The tallest building in the world has also been built in Dubai. The emirate is also developing a city that will be dedicated to leisure and entertainment services near this tallest building. It is meant to have Cinemas, 100 hotels, the world’s largest shopping mall, and the world’s largest single space for art exhibitions. These developments are extraordinary inputs into the entertainment industry. They provide both huge resources for media entertainment production and a huge market for the produced content.
The Dubai entertainment media has had so much to show to the local and international audience. From cutting-edge architectural designs, visual arts sceneries, a vibrant city life, a complex urban culture among many other resources. It is also competing with international media outlets for its affluent consumers of high-quality content. Satellite and cable TV penetration has been achieved throughout the city, and all other telecommunication services are available. As such, the city has one of the most sophisticated media industry in the Arab world. As a cosmopolitan city, Dubai’s government has had to relax its restrictions on the media and create a conducive environment for an international community to thrive. It also relaxed its Visa policies, which contributed to an influx of talent from neighboring countries. It has also attracted international art lovers to its open gallery. As such, the high demand for art and its high availability has cultivated a healthy form of competition among artists and various artistic styles in the emirate. Immigrants from Iran have also brought valuable art collections to Dubai. The emirate has won the bid to host the most prestigious business events in the world, the World Expo, which will become Dubai Expo 2020 (Nasser, 2014). This victory has attracted international attention to Dubai’s infrastructural and organizational potential. The event will attract investors, tourists, entertainers, and leaders in various fields into Dubai. It is a very popular event that definitely provides extremely marketable content for the Dubai entertainment media.
Dubai’s outstanding position in entertainment production has also been facilitated by conflicts in other areas of the Arab world. The events of the Arab spring proved Dubai to be a stable cosmopolitan center for media entertainment production. Despite the fact that the events were being broadcasted on various Dubai media outlets, the Dubai population remained immune to the influence that had paralyzed operations in Bahrain and other neighboring regions. Beirut was its rival in art and entertainment, but after Israel bombings in Beirut, Dubai did not face much competition from the GCC in the areas of art and entertainment. Other regions of the Arab world are also still being held back by extremely strict restrictions on the freedom of expression. As a result of its economic success, Dubai has been able to maintain a favorable level of autonomy in making its internal policies on media entertainment, culture, and religion.
Bu Dhabi’s media entertainment industry has benefited from a wide range of economic, cultural, political, and technological resources as well as from the strategic location of the emirate. Tribes that played prominent roles in the ancient development of the UAE region still dominate in Abu Dhabi. This includes the Bani Yas to which the ruling family belongs and Al Nahyans (Anthony, 2001). As a result, the emirate has maintained a relatively intact identity in the face of rapid modernization. The emirate plays a lead role as the current head of the UAE because its leader is the UAE president. It also owns immense oil reserves and is among the topmost world producers of oil. The country invests heavily in infrastructure and modern education. Its infrastructure has attracted investors and professionals in various fields to the emirate.
Figure 3 A view of Abu Dhabi
(Greenland tourism, n.d)
The entertainment media of Abu Dhabi benefited from the modern office spaces, modern technologies, modern transportation, and a sophisticated urban market. The city also markets its natural resources extensively on international media. This gives it exposure to producers of entertainment content from various parts of the world. These producers have been able to partner with local media entertainment producers in developing Abu Dhabi’s entertainment industry. Abu Dhabi also offers extensive natural sceneries for audio-visual productions, literature, and many other forms of entertainment. These include numerous sand dunes (including spectacular rolling sand dunes near its border with Saudi Arabia), oases, desert vegetation, beaches, marine life, and desert lakes.
Abu Dhabi’s popular development projects have dominated local and international media coverage. One characteristic development in Abu Dhabi that is likely to change the face of its entertainment production is the Masdar City project. This project is one of the most striking master plans in urban development. The city is already under development and it is meant to have spacious residential spaces for about 40, 000 inhabitants, and 50,000 transportation carriages. The project has attracted many investors, tourists, and technological enthusiasts to Abu Dhabi. The Abu Dhabi media has popularized the plan and covered elements of the master plan in a variety of programs. Abu Dhabi has also made a giant leap in higher education, science, and technology by partnering with leading world institutions in these areas. It has improved on the quality of training that is given to professionals in media production technology among many other areas of technology. This has also boosted research and development in the teaching of cultural and social studies.
Umm al Quwain
Umm al Quwain owns a significant amount of resources that provide content for entertainment production. It has beautiful natural habitats and a strikingly reserved history. It has sparked the interests of archeologists who had been unable to unravel details of Arabian Peninsula archeology (Jasim, 1999). Various discoveries have been made in the emirate, the most significant one being the Neolithic dugong bone mound on the Akab Island. The discovery sheds light into the region’s ancient culture. The island is situated in a large Umm al Quwain lagoon. The archeological discoveries have created considerable attention in international media over the practice of dugong hunting in the Peninsula. The dugong is a marine mammal found on Indian Ocean coast, in areas of the Paciﬁc, and now in several areas of the Arabian Gulf (Preen, 2004).
Figure 4 The Dugong dugong – Umm Al Quwain
The animal is being protected by conservationists from the UAE and other parts of the world (Das 2007). The lack of adequate records on the animal’s biosocial life and minimal association with the development of other cultures makes it a unique center of focus for the international community. The nature of the archeological discoveries in Akab have also shown that the area was abandoned for a long time in history. The Akab Island is therefore an extremely unique scenery for media productions and tourist attractions.
The emirate of Fujairah has a vibrant social life and beautiful sceneries for entertainment production. The emirate has also attracted a high level of tourist activity in the UAE. Video recordings of Scuba diving off Fujairah’s coast provide exclusive content for entertainment media production.
Figure 5 Scuba Diving
Scuba Diving in Fujairah as a source of content for entertainment production (Musan Dam, 2015).
The government of this emirate has embarked on preserving scenic sites that are commonly used for this entertainment activity. As part of the initiative of integrating it into its ecotourism initiatives, the UAE also protects the diversity of marine life on these sites.
The Fujairah community also engages in bullfighting, a popular activity in entertainment media. They organize Friday evening bullfights in famous spots. These events attract a large audience. The high penetration of video recording devices enables both locals and media professionals to generate a great deal of content from these activities.
Ras al Khaimah
Ras al Khaimah emirate has also become an entertainment hub, thanks to urbanization and environmental conservation efforts. It now provides exclusive sceneries such as beautiful animal parks (with the rare Damani gazelle), the Great Solar Lake of Ras al Khaimah, exquisite resorts, and a variety of natural features on the interior desert landscape.
6.1 In-depth analysis of each of the six countries
The Kuwaiti media entertainment production supplies a rather diverse society. This society has been structured on the basis of political and economic stratifications. An interesting social influence also imparted on the public by the constitutional monarchy. The ruling family is immensely rich and stands out as one of the wealthiest monarchies in the world. It has been able to maintain a relatively lively entertainment industry; especially through art. Sheikh Nasser, his wife, and his daughter are some of the members of the ruling family who have engaged in the collection of art. Their wealth and influence is essential in maintaining a good level of diversity in entertainment media production as they do not easily get affected by public criticism. They also have an immense rich in the diverse Kuwaiti society and are able to assemble content that may represent the interests of a wider audience. As such, the royal family has been able to spur growth in both the amount and quality of content in the country’s entertainment media production.
The Kuwaiti rich merchant societies have played one of the most significant roles in the entertainment industry of the nation. Their roles in the early development of a diverse culture in Kuwait and their efforts in maintaining a balance of power between the public and the ruling family has been central in the development of a free media. The rich merchants also influenced the royal family’s decision on including elites in the top governance of the country. This has enabled Kuwait to adopt objective policies with regard to freedom of individuals and freedom of the press and the entire entertainment media. Rich merchants invest a lot in the development of knowledge and talent as they seek to maintain a competitive edge in business. They also direct significant effort towards creating a sustainable social and cultural environment to attract foreign investment and spur economic growth. The merchants also present a unique test to the Kuwait media entertainment industry as they demand for diverse and high-quality content. They also intend to make Kuwait a rich economic and social center in order to promote their social, political, and economic interests. One interesting influence that the families have had on influencing the entertainment media is the fact that; they have been able to subdue cultural dominance of ethnic groups within Kuwait for a relatively long time. This has created a diverse environment where talent can thrive. In particular, the effect of the presence of Shia and Sunni tribes in the nation has been subdued due to the tribes’ dismal influence on the nation’s economic structure. The two tribes have been known to clash in various parts of the Arab world. As such, the rich merchants of Kuwait play a unique regulatory role in the sociocultural elements of demand for specific content in the entertainment media production.
Kuwait’s entertainment media has also benefited from the expansion of the middle class. This class is made up of generations of Kuwaitis who engaged in pearl fishing. They have accessed formal education and are knowledgeable in areas such as politics, media, and technology, among other fields of knowledge. As such, they are able to voice their opinion in various ways in order to get their tastes represented in entertainment media. This class is a great source of talent as its members also seek opportunities in the entertainment industry. They also provide an audience to various forms of entertainment and are actively involved in various leisure activities. This class is very critical in protesting about issues such as corruption and injustice. They are also uniquely placed in the sense that; they can access power, higher education, and investment opportunities in Kuwaiti industries. This group therefore presents a ready market for various forms of entertainment.
The Kuwaiti working class is a unique audience for productions that reflect religious and social views. They also represent a group that battles with the effects of a growing economy and they are very vocal on political issues. Because of their position they have an impact on the political landscape of Kuwait. This class is also highly diversified, with representations from Pakistan, Syria, Iran, and Egypt. Western expatriates also work in a few areas of management for companies in Kuwait. They supplement the already-adequate western influence in Kuwait’s national development agendas. The Kuwaiti media is obliged to supply the needs of this group as many of them work for the state, and as such; they have deal with issues of importance to leadership and governance. The highly religious Shia and Sunnis are also part of this group. The Shia has been perceived as to possess political interests that reflect an Iranian descent. However, the group has remained peaceful. It pursues its objectives through legal political processes. The Sunnis are also part of the working class and they represent a highly-favored voice in the nation’s politics. This group has gained a proportionately large parliamentary representation. It represents highly nationalistic ideologies based on its role in resisting Saddam’s invasion. They also represent a section of the public that is strongly geared towards pro-democratic leadership. The group’s voice and interests in the region has been boosted by western powers who see it as a source of hope for the full democratization of Kuwait. Additionally, the Shia-versus-Sunni rivalry in other areas of the Arab world have made this group to be seen as a neutralizer of Shia ideologies. In particular, the rise of extremist ideology among some Shia religious communities has shifted the attention of the Kuwaiti media towards the views of Sunni Kuwaitis. The group offers a special taste for Islamic entertainment media content. They are able to draw lines of demarcations over contentious issues as with regard to “what is considered moral or not moral” in broadcast media. This helps to suppress some extremist ideologies as their form of Islamic culture does not antagonize other cultures as directly as the Shia culture does. Continued stability of Kuwait is likely to see this group rise in dominance in areas of political and religious representation. This would continue to influence the forms of content that is generated by the entertainment media of Kuwait.
Notable productions of the Kuwaiti media entertainment industry have relied immensely on various natural and man-made resources. The desert landscape provides unique sceneries with sand dunes, sand storms, intensely bright and hot weather, flash floods, and indigenous tribes such as the Bedouin. It also has a rich history of wars and inter-tribal conflicts. The royal family’s interests in the history and culture of Kuwaitis also plays a role in availing content on notable historic events and conquests of Kuwait. It is well-known that the country had tall wall built around its capital in the 1920s. The wall has been documented as a determinant in the inclusion and exclusion of some ethic groups from developments in areas of culture and economics of the city. Furthermore, the hadhar citizens have occupied areas around the city as a result of being the only ones that were allowed to acquire property in these areas. Outer rings were open for other citizens and they are filled with a mixture of various cultures.
Figure 6 A view of Kuwait’s Capital
– Kuwait (Visit Capital City, n.d)
Beyond these outer rings lies the desert, which the Bedouin occupied. The Bedouin from Syria, KSA, Jordan, and Iraq also travel across the desert into Kuwait. They represent a group that has not been granted equitable access to national resources. They also co-exist with various Arabs from Iraq and Palestine. These groups have created sceneries of low-income residences and slums on the outskirts of the city. They represent fairly-suppressed views in the Kuwaiti media as they seek representation in the national economy. The Kuwaiti government also pays special attention to security threats that these groups may pose to the city. They have been repelled several times in their attempts to destabilize the region’s peace. Nevertheless, the group has contributed to the increase in Islamist cultures among the non-wealthy Kuwaitis. They thus provide a boost to the taste for Islamic forms of entertainment for this group. They also bring forth a desert culture and history that enriches the variety of available content in the entertainment media of Kuwait. Other cultures have also led to significant trends in the media entertainment industry of Kuwait through their active participation in more progressive areas of socioeconomic development. Those that access university education are able to interact with a global population and promote tolerance for admissible foreign opinion. Higher education also provides a unique resource for the industry by training professionals in media studies and hosting events for the promotion of art, music, and culture.
One final unique feature that has characterized the development of Kuwait’s media entertainment production industry is that; the industry developed under less strict religious laws compared to most other GCC states. The rise of Kuwaiti elites to positions of power helped the country to develop inclusive laws to cater for the diverse cultural representations of the Kuwaiti population. Little room was left for extreme religious laws but the role of Islam in the people’s cultures was not dismissed. As a result, other social forces contributed to the inter-cultural interactions that ensued in areas of politics and economics. This made it easier for the Kuwaiti entertainment media to capture essential sociocultural, political, economic, technological, and religious differences and use them to develop content that would be tolerated across various social and cultural realms. Various ideas would compete to shape the people’s understanding of the issues presented in entertainment media. This explains the relative stability that has been enjoyed by Kuwait’s entertainment media amidst recent extremism and terror in Syria and Iraq. Despite having a significant Shia and Sunni population, the region has not experienced large-scale terror attacks. The interior communities have learnt to coexist with their diverse opinions and cultural differences. Continued stability of Kuwait’s entertainment production industry is however subject to foreign influence in the region. As the west seeks to push its agenda in Syria and Iraq, a parallel rise in Islamist culture is being experienced in Kuwait and in the neighboring regions (such as Bahrain). This creates a potential pivot for change in the forms of content that will be generated in entertainment media production in future.
The Bahraini entertainment media has tremendous internal resources and a favorable social environment to continue thriving. Its rapid economic development is one such resource. The country’s economy has been identified to be the fastest growing economy in the GCC (Global Invent, 2009). This supports an inflow of talent from other parts of the world. It also supports a growing population that provides market for content that is produced by the media. As a result of the growth of the Arab culture in Bahrain, foreign content from neighboring countries also enriches the nation’s entertainment media. The education system of Bahrain is another resource that supplies skills to the Bahrain entertainment media. The government has made it compulsory for all young Bahrainis to receive basic education. It supplies educational resources to all government schools. As such, Bahrainis have high literacy levels in the GCC. This opens up opportunities for them in areas of entertainment and also creates a market for various forms of content that is produced by the Bahraini entertainment media.
The Bahrain media attracted the attention of the wider international community in the 2011 Arab Uprising (Dempsey, 2013). The uprising was a wave of protests and demonstrations across the Arab world. People were demanding for reforms in various areas of governance. Issues ranged from demands for the formation of new governments, protests against specific laws or entire constitutions, demand for more representation of Islamic ideologies in leadership, protests against unemployment, among many other issues. In Bahrain, people learnt about the protests from various forms of media. Hundreds of people streamed to the Central Manama Pearl round-about causing chaos by paralyzing businesses and normal operations. The Bahrain media had been reporting some of the issues that protestors in other parts of the GCC were attempting to address. The reactions of the many Bahrainis who took to the street to join in the uprising showed how the Arab and Islamic cultures had conferred a unified identity to many Bahrainis. The Bahrain government responded by sending the Bahraini police to subdue the protestors. Many of them were arrested and several were killed. The protests continued for several months. Supporters received backing from the opposition politicians who wanted the monarchy to be scrapped from the Bahraini constitution. Again, this was a manifestation of the continued power imbalances between the monarchy and the democratically elected wing of the Bahraini government. Some of the people that opposed the protests claimed that; the protestors had been influenced by Iran in order to destabilize the region’s peace and achieve its own private agendas. The GCC was keen in ensuring that its member states united during these unrests. As such, the information that was communicated by the government through the media also indicated that the influence was from outside the GCC. The GCC also sent its Shield forces to quell the protests. The protests subsided and relative calm has returned to the region. However, the issues that were being voiced by protestors are still being discussed and the government has established policies to address them. It has also engaged in popularizing its reform agenda through the media and conveying other forms of information meant to ensure that people do not participate in such protests again. The government has gone further to add some restrictions to the freedoms that journalists can enjoy. It is now easier for them to be prosecuted in the event that; they disseminate falsifying or undesirable information to the public. It is required that; journalists only report “the truth” especially when dealing with issues of national governance. The entertainment media is direly affected by these developments. Some people are less willing to participate in public entertainment in case they feel that they might get into trouble with the authorities.
In as much as earlier Bahraini monarchies were able to prevent such occurrences, the conditions under which the modern-day monarchy operates have been complicated by higher literacy levels, the growth of the Arab culture, and the fast growth rates of the Bahraini economy. This has shifted a considerably large amount of political influence to the democratic wing. The elected leaders have had to demonstrate their dedication towards protecting and promoting the freedoms of their people in order for them to gain and maintain popularity. As such, they have been able to push their agenda through the media whenever they encounter constitutional barriers; especially in form of restrictions imposed by the executive against certain reforms. The Bahraini media has therefore provided a tool for the Bahrainis and their leaders to exchange information and address critical issues that affect them in their daily lives. Such exchanges are bound to continue, and are important for socioeconomic and political progress. They might also turn out badly in case these issues are addressed in a manner that will lead to provocation or incitement. However, Bahrain is a relatively diverse nation with a strong representation of multiple cultures in parliament, and as such, the situation is expected to fade away as people explore new opportunities in various sectors of the economy. However, the possibility of future recurrences is unknown. This stems from the fact that; Bahrainis have been exposed to many divisive elements in religion, contradictory cultures, and economic stratification. The way the media handles these issues is very crucial in preventing future unrests.
Other notable trends have been observed as to have characterized the resourcefulness of the Bahraini entertainment industry in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. They include the revival of some stalled projects, the stalling of some projects that were on-going before the Arab Spring, and the completion of other projects that had been stalled by the Arab Spring. The Bahrain government has established a fund to support local filmmakers. The government has supported the art industry by creating avenues where they can exhibit their works. More performers and creators have risen to embark on the production of entertainment content. The Bahrain capital has also become the formal capital of Arabian culture and several cultural events are hosted there. The National Amphitheatre was also completed in 2012.
Qatar plays a unique role in the media entertainment production in the GCC. It is home for the famous Al Jazeera satellite television network, numerous galleries, large Cinemas, among many other media entertainment production resources. It is also the host of the 2022 FIFA World cup (FIFA, 2015). Qatar exhibits complex behavior when it comes to media entertainment production and policies that govern this industry. From establishing world-class media production infrastructure to censorship of large sections of the media, Qatar’s media regulation policies are some of the most controversial policies in the world. Even more surprisingly, the country has maintained good relations with the United States of America, Europe, and Iran. As such, Qatar’s media thrives in one of the most complex environments with influence from the Ruling family, Qatar’s economic resources, and its foreign policy (Kamrava, 2009).
Figure 7 A view of Qatar’s Capital
Doha (Art Valley, n.d)
The broadcasting of sports is one of the core areas of entertainment media that generate substantial amounts of traffic for media channels. There is a growing trend in the consumption of this content across the globe. In particular, Qatar has experienced an increase in international representation in athletics, football, and other sports (Reiche, 2014). The entertainment media benefits directly from the increasing public interest in the performances of local teams in the international competitions. In Qatar, the government supports sports and athletics as a tool for foreign and domestic policy. The country occupies a unique position in the GCC as a sporting hub for regional and international competitions. It has also won the bid for hosting the FIFA 2022 World Cup. It has also won more medals in Asian Games than any other GCC country. As the Qatar government invests in sports, it aims to have the results publicized through the media in order to achieve the overall objectives domestically and in foreign policy. As a result, content on various aspects of development in sports is produced and relayed to the public on various platforms.
The Qatar media has been instrumental in shedding light on the reactions of media outlets in countries that lost the FIFA 2022 World Cup hosting bid (Reiche, 2014). Issues that have spurred debate have included: criticism over the transparency of the winner-selection process, the Qatar climate, and other non-related issues such as Qatar labor laws. The Qatar media, which is highly regulated by the state, offers a considerably nationalistic approach to these issues. As a result, media content on sports glorifies the need for national progress in various sports. There is a considerably higher focus on sports in the Qatar media during international competitions and in the event that the country happens to host a international competition. It has hosted several competitions in the past, including IAAF C’Ships events, FIM Motor-Racing events, Asian Games, among many other championships. Qatar sportspeople are sourced locally and internationally. Locally-sourced sportspeople are nurtured in sports academies and through regular sports tournaments between learning institutions. Internationally-sourced sportspeople are recruited from top leagues in foreign nations and awarded Qatar citizenships in addition to other benefits. This strategy makes it easier for the sports media to gain a wider audience as part of the fan base of these sportspeople back in their home countries remains attached to them even as they gain a new fan base in Qatar. Moreover, it has been shown that most Arabic TV viewers are willing to subscribe to pay TV services for the purpose of watching their favorite sports (Delloite, 2015).
Qatar’s Media Entertainment – Control and Central Agenda, the case of Al Jazeera
The Qatar entertainment media has grown along the lines of autocratic control and the above strategies have been used to determine its current state. The media drew international attention to the Arab Spring protests in Arab nations where media censorship did not allow information on the events to be leaked out. Qatar also supported some of the protestors’ agendas. Some rebel groups in the Arab world (such as Taliban) have also thought of Qatar as to be either neutral towards their agenda or to be supportive towards it. As such, Qatar has been able to negotiate middle grounds between them and their enemies.
The channel that symbolizes the true face of Qatar’s media entertainment production is Al Jazeera. We shall hereby examine the channel and its production of content for Qatar and international viewers:
Al Jazeera is Qatar’s satellite television channel that was established in 1996. It was meant to replace the BBC channel that had been closed after Saudi Arabia exercised its media restrictions on BBC’s news reports. The Channel’s entertainment production increased from 6 hours in 1996 to 12 hours in 1997. It had been using Arabsat broadcasters’ infrastructure before replacing Canal France, which had been banned for broadcasting pornographic content. Soon after establishing itself in the region, Al Jazeera gained popularity by broadcasting programs that addressed contentious issues on religion, culture, and morality. It also attracted attention by broadcasting live coverage of the 2001 Afghan war. Its popularity increased as Arab viewers were keenly interested in the events of the war. The channel had also established presence in Iraq and in 2003, it covered the American invasion in Iraq. One of its stations was accidentally hit by a US bomb killing one Al Jazeera journalist.
The Al Jazeera channel has been used extensively to shape Qatar’s entertainment media. The ruling family owns a significant stake in it. As such, it was used to offer the highest form of relatively free expression in the entertainment production industry of the GCC. It technically relayed the government’s public relations tactics and also drew the desired level of attention from an international audience. As such, a unique culture of production has been cultivated in popular Arab media outlets. Live shows, reality shows, and shows on contentious issues are being received with much more ease than before. Al Jazeera has expanded its reach worldwide and broadcasts in multiple languages. This enables Qatar to express its agenda to audiences across the entire world.
The channel of Al Jazeera has come under criticism from many sections of the Arab and western worlds. Due to its complicated position in various geopolitical issues, some Arab countries have thought it to be a betrayal to their agendas. In the early protests of the Arab spring in Egypt, protestors burnt Al Jazeera’s van because the channel had failed to broadcast their protests (New York Times, 2011). The channel has also come under intense criticism from the west, especially when it attempts to represent the Arab Muslim’s voice in international affairs. The station also pays little or no attention to the news happening within Qatar. It has avoided to touch on issues of power imbalances and some authoritarian decisions that are made by the ruling family.
Another more promising areas of Qatar’s media entertainment are the arts industry. The ruling family has shown interest in the arts and has established various institutions to support art in Qatar. The Qatar Museum is one of institutions that support the arts by providing studio space for artists to work as well as storage and exhibition for their work. The government has also established and maintained a clothes and textiles museum, a national Library, a national photography museum, a museum for Islamic art, a natural history museum, among other art institutions. Diverse content is found in these institutions. However, the collections of high-end valuable art are influenced by the tastes of the ruling family. The family has immense interest in valuable collections and at one point, the president of Qatar’s Council of Culture was revealed to have overspent on buying art for the state. As a result of public criticism, he was dismissed. The art collections of Qatar are very diverse. This provides content from multiple cultures across the world and they could be potential sources of diversifying the media entertainment production.
6.1.4 Saudi Arabia
Entertainment production in the GCC media increased tremendously in 1979 when Saudi Arabia embarked on building satellite television transmission infrastructure, establishing Arab news agencies, and constructing mosques in various parts of the world (Mellor, 2012). It has reinforced its place in the Islam religion by maintaining a desirable image in the Muslim world. In the rise of anti-American terror attacks in 2011, the KSA’s relations with the west deteriorated. The reason as to why these developments affected Saudi’s media industry is because the nation and the people in it had established some level of trust with the west. They shared common agendas in industrialization, and in policies against Iran. As a result, the media had to redefine its content as the country’s policies towards the west changed. Furthermore, stricter policies against westernization through entertainment were put in place. Major cinema theatres that had been established over liberal grounds to showcase multicultural entertainment (including western films) were closed down or repurposed for more conservative forms of entertainment. This trend has been maintained in the production of media content and local producers have become accustomed to conservative media regulations with regard to morals and religion. However, in 2011, the KSA re-formulated its policies to improve the rights and freedoms of women. They are now allowed to hold top leadership positions in government.
The pop culture of KSA has also remained lively. Rappers, singers, and bands are commonplace. Folk music is popular on the sea coast. The encroachment of commercial popular culture with elements of western music is also being experienced. Cultural festivities are also on the increase; like the Janadriya folklore festival (Saudi Tourism). The annual festival usually showcases various elements of culture like food, music, dance, and architecture. Such events are good for the creation of an environment where content can be generated for production media. People are also exposed to various forms of creativity which builds a strong taste for creative arts and other forms of entertainment. Saudi slipper skaters have also hit the international media. Their performances compose of acrobatic stunts that are done using drifting cars.
Oman is a unique country in the GCC media entertainment scene because of its highly conservative culture and leadership. It is also an absolute monarchy, meaning that; the ruler of Oman has absolute power over all Omanis. As such, the Sultan of Oman has imposed strict restrictions on the media. His rule has also ensured that people are maintained within their cultures and socioeconomic classes. As a result, the Omani entertainment media can only touch on areas of society and culture that are permitted within the strict Sharia laws of Oman.
Figure 8 Zanzibar Old Fort
Scenic view of the Old Fort in Zanzibar (by Wikimedia Commons, 2015)
As such, the Omanis were aggressive in trade, urbanization, and sociocultural issues. They led to the development of Swahili language, a common language in East Africa and in large parts of Central Africa. The language would also be used to spread Islam in the region. The modern sultanate of Oman has experienced significant development in the core areas of its economy, available technologies, and tourism. The country has significant oil reserves and as such, development most of the other areas has remained tied to the oil trade. It has developed schools, colleges and universities in order to provide expertise in various areas of development.
Figure 9 Muscat A view of Oman’s Capital – Muscat (Lay Over Tour Guide, 2014)
Development in the media entertainment has been slow. However, Oman has a wide range of content sources for the industry. Its indigenous cultures have over 8 traditional dance styles and more than 130 traditional music styles. A center for traditional music has been established to preserve these elements of Omani culture. It also has a hilly topography and a wide range of desert features. Expedition Oman is a fmous film that tells a story based on an Omani desert (Deepei Productions, 2015). The nation has also built some galleries in Muscat and at Bait Muzna. Local and foreign artists also exhibit their work at the Omani Fine Arts Gallery. Luxury hotels also provide opportunities for people to view different forms of art. The country’s history makes it to have a diverse culture that can produce different talents in contemporary art. The country is also unique in the GCC because it did not have frequent integration of its population and those of the rest of the GCC. This was due to its political dominance and power in the region. It also focused its trade in the eastern and northern direction, away from its western borders. As such, the country has a unique identity that is not fully utilized in its media entertainment production. In fact, the Bedouin of Oman speak the Arabic language in its purest form. This is because the ancient Omani kingdom fought viciously against Persian dominance in the region. As such, they repelled Persians from the Oman territory. The Bedouin of Oman are also still nomads and they have been restricted from rapid urbanization by the lack of resources. They add unique content to Oman’s cultural tourism.
6.1.6 The United Arab Emirates
The UAE entertainment media produces and supplies content to an extremely diverse population. More than 80% of the UAE population is composed of foreign nationals from Asia, Europe, Africa, and other parts of the world. Initially, the UAE population was predominantly composed of Arabs. The change in demographics has brought changes in the needs of the UAE population. As such, the Entertainment media production in the UAE can be best understood by examining the essential political, socioeconomic, and cultural developments that have influenced its development.
The UAE’s media entertainment has developed gradually alongside the UAE’s economy. The economic development changed the demographics of the region and the entertainment needs of the population that resulted from economic activities. This would present a challenge to the indigenous culture’s forms of entertainment. An interplay between government regulation, economic development, foreign influence, and social factors has determined the status quo of media entertainment in the UAE. This section will explore the important developments that have shaped UAE’s entertainment media production. Focus is given to each emirate in order unravel the core forces behind these developments.
The UAE’s first media free zones, Internet City and Media City in Dubai, have been a grand achievement. The 4-million-square-meter International Media Production Zone (IMPZ) covers the printing, branding and publishing (Flanagan, 2013). Work has started on a 40,000-square-meter media free zone Creativity City in Fujairah catering for people and organizations working in the media, information technology, and other innovation fields. In addition to fresh investors, Creativity City will hold existing ventures like Fujairah FM (Flanagan, 2013). Creativity City is the most recent extension of the Fujairah Culture and Media Authority (FCMA). It will be worked and regulated via Fujairah Media, a partnership between Fujairah Investments and Arab International Media Services (Flanagan, 2013).
In 2007, the UAE Cabinet laid down that all free zones in the UAE are obliged to get the accreditation of the National Media Council before the issuance of any media licenses identified with radio and TV exercises and the distribution of daily papers, magazines, periodicals and books (Flanagan, 2013).
A mandate issued in September 2007 by Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai terminating the criminalization of press offenses gave a huge filip to the growth of the press and open and autonomous journalism (Karaganis, 2011). In addition, the Sheik directed the cabinet to accelerate the issue of another press and media production law in light of revisions made by the National Media Council in a joint effort with other relevant stakeholder associations. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) communicated their trust that a change in the law in the UAE would set a point of reference for the decriminalization of media law in the entire region. After the directive was issued, chief editors of a section of the UAE’s top Arabic and English daily papers devised a code of morals, characterizing the rights and obligations of the press, and conveying their dedication to raise the standard of reporting in the nation (Karaganis, 2011).
Abu Dhabi Law No. 13 for 2007 facilitated the formation of Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), a Dh100 million open business entity (Flanagan, 2013). The law outlines the role of the Abu Dhabi Media Company in all media related exercises, including TV, media production, showcasing, advertising and other promotion services, in addition to providing media services through the web or any other medium as well as distribution of daily papers and magazines in Arabic and different dialects (Karaganis, 2011).
The ADMC obligations include encouraging and preparing of UAE nationals in all media. Under the law, responsibility for Dhabi Satellite Channel, Abu Dhabi Sport Channel, Abu Dhabi Radio, Emarat FM Radio, Holy Quran Radio, Al Ittihad daily paper, Zahrat Al Khaleej magazine, Al Super magazine and Majid magazine (Previously managed by Emirates Media Incorporated) was moved to ADMC (Flaganan, 2013). The company’s coverage stretches out from the Middle East to Europe and North America. ADMC has pursued a joint cooperation with Aldar Properties and Warner Brothers Entertainment and developed an amusement park and a hotel to boost film creation, the advancement and production of videogames, and to develop the framework for Abu Dhabi’s conversion to digital broadcasting (Karaganis, 2011).
The ADMC in mid-2007 made arrangements to dispatch another English dialect daily paper situated in Abu Dhabi. The previous Abu Dhabi-based English dialect daily paper, Emirates News, stopped production in 1999 (Flanagan, 2013).
The UAE is the territorial center point in relation to publishing, printing and promoting businesses and its stakeholders expected that it would win the biggest single allocation of approximately $1.7 trillion value of business that was anticipated for the entertainment industry in the Middle East by 2008 (Flanagan, 2013). Accordingly, the UAE printing industry is growing by 15-20% per annum with aggregate worth approximated between DH8 to DH10 billion. More than 500 printing presses are working in the nation, a major portion being due to the high range of local and international productions.
Advertising budget in the Gulf has been developing at a rate of fifteen percent every year. UAE film agencies won various prizes in the first-ever Dubai Lynx awards facilitated by the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival along with the UAE section of the International Advertising Association (Cousins, 2006). The Dubai International Advertising Festival initiated in 2008 has organized high-profile seminars and activities to promote enthusiasm and to educate individuals working in the industry (Flanagan, 2013).
With the specificity of the Arab context and UAEs being a member of GCC, entertainment industry’s development in this state has a close focus with two factors: economic developments in Dubai through various free zones that attracted a number of large international players in different commercial sectors, and focus on the development of alternative non-oil economy. It was the revenue from oil economy that helped boost the non-oil economy by increasing the spending power of consumers in the GCC region. However, the UAE, and Dubai in particular, is ahead of other GCC countries in terms of media industry development, since the rest of GCC states are relatively closed and indifferent to media developments (Dubai SME, 2010).
The entertainment industry was identified as one of the key priorities in the UAE, specifically Dubai, about a decade ago. As Husain (2006) indicated, amid active construction, a full-pledged entertainment industry has emerged in Dubai. Among the key entertainment projects, Dubai Land and the City of Arabia were stipulated as key entertainment sites in Dubai. Domestic and foreign origin companies are as optimistic about the growing focus on entertainment and consider Dubai an attractive investment site for development of entertainment production and creative industries (Husain, 2006). The balanced combination of the rising number of tourists and the new entertainment projects facilitate the development and institutionalization of creative industry in the UAE.
Intracen (2012) has defined the evolution and rapid development of the UAE as “a transformation from a sleepy desert village to a burgeoning modern metropolis” (p. 2). The effort towards a knowledge economy is embodied in the national plan of the UAE, which is to be achieved by focusing on the R&D, technology, media, education, telecommunications, and related services. The key facilitator in the development of media industry in Dubai is the establishment of the Dubai Technology and Media Free Zone which include the Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City, and Dubai Knowledge Village.
The UAE in general, and its major entertainment and creative industry hubs Abu Dhabi and Dubai in particular, have initiated intense efforts for creation of many centers for creative industries. However, as Saraf (2008) indicated, there is concern whether the Emirates as an Arabic, Eastern region have everything necessary for the encouragement of creativity and creative talents at the industrial level. In the researcher’s opinion, active financing of large-scale creative industry projects is a beneficial step that is likely to help in their creative industry’s enforcement effort. But enough has not been done for the creation of a foundation for all supplementary services and infrastructure that would aid the establishment of creative industries in the UAE in the long run (Saraf, 2008).
Dubai Media City (DMC) beckons organizations involved in advertising, art and design, designer fashion, film, video, photography, software, computer games, and electronic publishing, as well as music, publishing, TV and radio broadcasting (Intracen, 2012). The media and entertainment industry development came to the forefront in 2001 and since then, active government investment in the infrastructure of DMC has resulted in its comprehensive development as well as the establishment of Television broadcaster’s in the Gulf, and multinational advertising agencies that cater for the growing number of companies in the free zone (Dubai SME, 2010). This initiative has also resulted in the creation of other free zones such as the Media Production Zone and Dubai Studio City.
At present, there is a range of companies actively developing the entertainment and media industry in Dubai and the UAE within the framework of DMC’s activities as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2- Companies in Dubai Media City
(Source: Dubai SME, 2010, p. 17)
Dubai Internet City offers extended opportunities for companies specializing in consultancy, electronic publishing, computer games, and software development and support. Dubai Knowledge Village offers training and education programs in advertising, art and design, designer fashion, film, video, photography, music, TV and radio, arts, etc. to facilitate the creative industry development in the UAE (Intracen, 2012).
Due to these innovations and favorable working conditions, the TECOM (Dubai Free Zone) hosts a great number of cutting-edge specialists in the creative industry including media (media and marketing services, broadcasting, filmed entertainment, printing and publishing, new media, leisure and entertainment, event management), ICT (software, e-commerce, web design, back office, telecom, multimedia, and consultancy), and knowledge (e-learning, management development, IT/media training, innovation centers, R&D, academic infrastructure, and service providers) (Intracen, 2012).
The creative and entertainment industries in the UAE have a high potential for development since there is clear emphasis on the culture of freedom, diversity, and pluralism by the UAE authorities in contrast to other Arab countries. Moreover, the UAE has a potential for becoming an international entertainment hub because English is spoken by the majority of UAE residents together with Arabic and Hindi. The Dubai society is characterized by having the values of openness and tolerance to other nations, distinguishing it from the rest of the Arab societies which are comparatively closed, isolated, and hostile towards the Western world (Saraf, 2008).
One of the challenges defined by Dubai SME (2010) for development of the Dubai creative industries is the lack of content generating activities in the Emirates as opposed to Egypt and Lebanon. Moreover, the cost advantage in states such as India and Jordan has contributed to greater pressures in the content delivery in UAE. A solution to these problems has been found in the transformation policy of the UAE creative industries and the growing number of UAE women’s participation in the field. These have enabled a stronger focus on the emiratization of the UAE creative industry and a more active and comprehensive youth involvement in this sector. UAE can meet these challenges for the entertainment production development with action to “upgrade skills, utilize available infrastructure and exploit the available opportunities to benefit the economy” (Dubai SME, 2010, p. 5).
Political and Legal Impacts
The major strength of UAE for developing its creative and entertainment production industries is that it has lifted all political and legal restraints and limitations for its development, fostering innovation, initiative, and attracting experts from the whole world to contribute to its development. This specificity is unique for UAE, considering that it is an Eastern Muslim state. The UAE differs substantially from the rest of the GCC countries that are still characterized by a high level of conservatism and isolation in terms of political and legal constraints for entertainment development and international programming introduction.
Piracy is older than the statutory copyright law. Preceding the Statute of Anne in 1710, the Stationers’ Company of London in 1557 accepted a Royal Charter allowing the company to operate as a monopoly in publication and tasking it with implementing the charter. The individuals who went against the requirement were marked privateers or pirates (Karaganis, 2011). Piracy describes unapproved duplicating, distribution and trading with works in copyright. Article 12 of the 1886 Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works used the expression ‘piracy’ in connection with copyright encroachment. Article 61 of the 1994 Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) requires criminal proceedings and punishments in instances of deliberate trademark forging or copyright robbery in business (Karaganis, 2011).
The UAE Government has followed strict implementation of the copyright, piracy and patent laws. As part of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the UAE subscribed to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property in 1996, which followed the three innovation protection laws in 1993 (Karaganis, 2011). The Government also works with the Trade Mark Owners Council (TMOC) to ensure protected innovation rights at the state level. As the Business Software Alliance (BSA) asserts, the UAE has posted the most minimal programming theft rate in the region since 2004 and is the only Middle East country appearing in the list of twenty nations with minimum software piracy.
Despite the fact that government and other stakeholders have checked the spread of piracy in programing, increasing consumer demand undermines that action. In response, the UAE government has taken further actions to decrease piracy by strengthening its partnership with the Business Software Alliance (Rosen, 2008). Proposed measures include better awareness of the dangers, understanding of the unfavorable effects of piracy in programming, and guaranteeing thorough authorization of IPR and copyright laws. A study on this subject found that by cutting down piracy in the UAE by ten percent, the nation could increase its GDP by over DH1.31 billion ($357 million) (Rosen, 2008).
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