Dubai Media Incorporated
There are numerous cultures existing all over the world, and they all differ in many aspects. The Arab countries have been always very different from the Western and European ones, since the values and principles people have there are much stricter than in other parts of the world. Some behaviour and certain types of entertainment as well as some websites, programs, and shows, which are accepted globally, are not tolerated in the Arab countries. The United Arab Emirates, or the UAE, is one of such countries. It is important to remember that residents of the Arab countries and of the Western or European countries are often unable to understand each other, especially if they are not aware of their cultural differences.
It is significant to find out whether there is an influence of the Western and European countries on the media development in the UAE, since globalization can be faced almost everywhere nowadays. Such kind of influence may have both positive and negative feedback and consequences, and it is important to examine it for a better understanding of the present topic. Positively, it may result in the faster development and better communication with other countries; while, on the other hand, it can lead to a cultural loss, which is a negative aspect. The development of media can illustrate this influence very well because it touches upon almost all the spheres of life. Therefore, the influence of Dubai Media Incorporated on the UAE society will be examined in the present paper.
In order to investigate the subject, the following points will be examined and described in the paper:
- Brief information about the UAE and Dubai;
- Development of media in Dubai;
- Establishment of Dubai Media Incorporated;
- Its importance and involvement in the media influence.
Brief information about the UAE and Dubai
The UAE is a federation of seven emirates with the capital in Abu Dhabi. It used to be a British colony for several centuries. The country became independent only in 1971 and issued the constitution in the same year. Since it regulates only the relations between the emirates, the country is considered to be a Federal Monarchy. Arabic is the official language of the country, but Persian, English and some other languages are also spoken (Vine, 2009). Islam is the official religion, which makes the UAE culturally different from Europe or the USA.
Due to the availability of oil and natural gas resources, the UAE is one of the Middle East’s most significant economic centers and one of the most developed countries in the Western Asia. It has the world’s seventh highest per capita income; oil revenues are mostly directed to education, healthcare and national infrastructure (Vine, 2009).
Dubai is the emirate located in the southeast of the Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula. It is the second largest emirate after Abu Dhabi, the capital, and has the largest population in the UAE. It used to be the earliest settlement in the region, and nowadays, it became a large cosmopolitan city and a business and cultural centre of the Middle East. Its main revenues come from such spheres as tourism and real estate business. It is widely known for man-made islands, hotels, resorts, shopping malls, construction projects, and so on (Vine, 2009). In addition, it holds sports events.
Needless to say, Dubai is considered to be the best place to live in the Middle East, according to the 2011 rating, even though it is the 22nd most expensive city in the world. This city definitely has a reflection of the Western lifestyle in such spheres as business, fashion, and entertainment. Its focus on tourism has made it attractive not only for the Middle East residents but also for the whole world (El-Baltaji, 2007). Therefore, its style exerts influence on other cities in the country, and it is definitely reflected in mass media.
Development of Media in Dubai
Mass media are media technologies which are meant to reach viewers to provide them with verbal, visual or sound information. Printing editions, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as electronic media, which include radio and television, are all referred to as mass media. Since via the Internet a wide audience can be reached, it stands out of the other mass media. In addition, it is easily accessible and can be used for different purposes, such as emailing, blogging, watching TV online, reading online newspapers, and so on (Uttara, 2011). Due to that, most mass media outlets are presented on the Internet, as it facilitates information spreading and communication with users.
Mass media has a bidirectional aspect, since information does not only come directly from media outlets, but there is also a system of feedback, which means that viewers and readers are also able to exert influence, share their opinions or experiences, and so on. In addition, there are outdoor forms of mass media, which include billboards, placards, signs, etc. (Uttara, 2011).
Mass media are usually characterized by information distribution and by the ability to reach even the audience which is physically located far away from issuers. The main purposes mass media follows are:
- Advocacy, which includes advertising, marketing, political communication, and so on;
- Public service announcement and alerts;
- Entertainment, including music, sports, TV shows, video games, and so on (Smith, 2011).
Mass media are considered to be the forms of communication by means of which it is possible to spread the information to a large quantity of audiences. Therefore, they have a great influence on viewers’ lifestyle and thoughts as they can shape public perceptions on various issues. There are two factors that exert the biggest influence: the information itself and the way of interpreting this information. In addition, mass media are able to play a significant role in creating sets of values, beliefs, and so on (Smith, 2011).
In the UAE, the constitution allows the freedom of speech, but still, there is a strict control of media content. Thus, all publications must follow requirements as they are censored. Websites, TV shows, articles, and other media which display contempt for religion, promote pornography, as well as drugs, homosexuality, and the theory of evolution are forbidden, since they are believed to violate cultural and political affairs in the UAE. Even Internet content is regulated in the UAE and, of course, in Dubai (Palfrey & Zittrain, 2005).
Media and academic attention to Dubai has increased as it has undergone a significant urban transformation. There are numerous aspects that made Dubai a global city nowadays and most of them are economic ones (El-Baltaji, 2007). Oil and natural gas resources give opportunities to find work places not only for native residents of the city, but also for foreigners. There is a high level of diversity of residents in Dubai, who are engaged in the city life and its transformations. Needless to say, such diversity also exerts huge influence on the lifestyle in general and on mass media in particular.
However, as it was mentioned above, censorship is required for everything that is broadcasted in Dubai, so this influence is rather limited. Nevertheless, some aspects of the Western and European styles are being adopted in the UAE, and the media has contributed to that, since it is accessible for all the residents.
Mass media in Dubai are well-developed nowadays. A well established network of television, radio and electronic media is present in the city. National and international channels and radio broadcasting are available through media systems in Arabic, English, and South Asian languages. There are a lot of Internet and television providers, such as Dubai Internet City, Arabian Radio Network, Dubai Media Incorporated, and others (Palfrey & Zittrain, 2005). The latter, which is a government-owned company that has been in action since 2003, will be further examined more thoroughly.
Establishment of Dubai Media Incorporated
Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) comprises a number of TV channels, publishing houses, and radio stations. They include such TV outlets as Dubai One, Dubai TV, Dubai Sports, Sama Dubai and so on, radio outlets (Dubai FM and Noor Dubai Radio & TV), as well as such publishing houses as Tawseel and Masar Printing Press, Al Bayan, and others. Some of them cover both local and international topics for Arabic and English-speaking world. The Chairman of DMI is Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also a Deputy Ruler of the city of Dubai (Kraidy, 2009).
To understand the subject, it is also necessary to be aware of some historical facts about DMI. Thus, before the establishment of DMI, the media were a part of the Dubai Department of Media. A number of channels were launched and closed back then. Following the establishment of DMI, the re-launching of TV channels was the beginning of the new strategy to gain a wider audience. Such channels included news and entertainment channels targeting the Arab world (Kraidy, 2009).
Hence, DMI firstly included only TV channels. Later, in 2009, it expanded its ownership to radio, print, and online outlets and turned into one of the largest media companies in the Middle East (Kraidy, 2009). Each its channel even had its own structure, strategy, and management team, which was organized to ensure targeting of various audiences, from young people to elders.
The content of DMI channels is mixed. It includes various local programs as well as a selection of international shows and movies. Radio broadcasting and printing press are also focused on activities that take place in Dubai and in the UAE as well as on the global news and events of various spheres from business to entertainment.
The mission statement of DMI, which says “A Lasting Commitment to Excellence”, can be found on the official website of the company. The About Us section provides users with more information about the values and principles of the company. According to the website, “DMI achieved remarkable success and prestigious status and reached a maximum number of viewers regionally and internationally” (Dubai Media Incorporated).
The company is believed to have a good vision and it strives for originality, quality modernity, and innovation. Its main goal is “to create an archive of distinctive Arabic media resources that represent creative and meaningful content and respect social, cultural and family values in the UAE” (Dubai Media Incorporated). It also aims at encouraging creativity through their work in a dynamic media environment and at constant development while exhibiting the portrait of Dubai and the UAE globally.
As it is commented on the website, “DMI is a pioneering media organization focused on innovation, quality and working in line with the strategic objectives of the Government of Dubai” (Dubai Media Incorporated). Particularly, through various TV, radio and press channels, DMI provides Dubai and UAE residents with quality materials, for the reason that it seeks to attract viewers, readers, and users with the creative and relevant content focusing on the UAE cultural identity and heritage. Nevertheless, it is important to examine whether there is a threat of losing cultural identity as a result of influence of the Western and European lifestyle through the media outlets. This issue will be examined further.
DMI’s Importance and Involvement in the Media Influence
Dubai is known as the centre of tourism and entertainment in the UAE, and it is even described as a Wild West town due to numerous hotels, banks, active trade and tourism, emergence of various media outlets, and so on. According to Dana El-Baltaji (2007), Dubai turned into a media hub and there are many reasons for that. She states that there was a plan to offer media companies the opportunity to create headquarters in Dubai and stay there. As a result, such newspapers as The Times decided to publish an international edition for the Middle East.
The first thing that was bringing companies to Dubai is the political stability of the Middle East. There are no open quarrels of Emiratis over political, religious and social topics. Moreover, it is a safe region (El-Baltaji, 2007). And journalists have a great interest in cooperating without fear of losing the investments due to wars, demonstrations, terrorism, etc.
Furthermore, professionals from Dubai display the ability to keep the quality of both Arabic and English media higher than that found in the neighborhood countries. Another aspect that attracts media companies to Dubai is the law that allows foreigners to own 49 percent of their company (El-Baltaji, 2007).
Since all the information that is being published and broadcasted in the UAE needs to undergo censorship, a number of journalists adhere to a practice of self-censorship in order to facilitate the process. One of the topics which are unofficially banned from covering in the media concerns the fact that such a rich city is being built by the poor people (El-Baltaji, 2007). This leads to a conclusion that pressing issues existing in the UAE are not explored thoroughly by the local media outlets, which casts doubt on the ability of Dubai to handle the social impact.
There have been some changes which occurred in the recent years in Dubai, and they include the following. First of all, Dubai’s crime rate has risen, even though it is still not as high as in the Western and European countries and there are not much street crimes. However, drug dealing and prostitution became wide-spread in the city.
Another problem that has never existed before but is present now is eating disorders among Emirati women (Herrin, 2012). It is a surprising fact that Arabic women became so concerned about their appearance, since they have been used to fully cover their bodies and never show them to people around. However, according to Dr. Marcia Herrin, “an increased media influence played a significant role in the high percentage of women considered at risk for an eating disorder” (2012).
The study revealed that 90 percent of women with eating disorders watch TV for at least 17 hours a week, while 75 percent also read appearance-related magazines. Undoubtedly, the standard of “fat” and “slim” women never existed in Arabic countries, since there were limited opportunities to see a woman’s size or shape. The new perception of beauty came with the Western and European television, movies, fashion magazines, and so on.
Such problem is new for the UAE, and while local doctors are able to deal with acute illnesses very well, they are not as good with long-term issues. In case of an eating disorder, all they can do is to send a patient to a psychologist and a dietician (Herrin, 2012). This reveals that, even though the influence of the Western and European countries is already faced there, residents are not ready for that.
DMI definitely contributes to this kind of influence, since it cooperates with the Western and European media outlets and broadcasts numerous TV shows, television and radio programs, and movies created in other parts of the world. Even though it tends to adhere to and maintain cultural identity of the UAE, it makes its contribution by adopting other cultures.
Considering the above mentioned, it is possible to see that Dubai residents face the influence of the Western and European media outlets. However, it does not only have a negative influence. The entire world faces globalization nowadays, and it helps in the development of certain countries. On the other hand, it certainly leads to losing some of the cultural values, which become useless if one adopts a new lifestyle.
DMI does its best in order to adhere to their principles of maintaining cultural identity. They do not let any banned content to be broadcasted on their TV and radio channels or be printed in their press releases. Such censoring of television, radio, newspapers and online resources is explained by cultural and religious concerns. Topics which are against their religious beliefs are not tolerated, and such content is blocked. On the one hand, this proves that the some limit in the freedom of speech and access to information. Nonetheless, it also results in preventing Arab people from seeing something that may seem offensive to them.
In all due fairness, everything depends on an individual’s perception of mass media outlets. If people respect their cultural identity, such kind of influence will be minimal and will result only in adopting of good ideas and in personal development. As the proverb goes, one should always begin with themselves. Therefore, each person should choose what to accept and want to deny if he/she wants to save the heritage of his/her native country.