Thursday, 13 December 2007

TV and the Three Big Ds

I'm sick of papers, let's turn to TV. Here's something interesting, and I'll quote the whole thing for those too lazy "time poor" to click:
CNN ups presence in United Arab Emirates
Tuesday, December 11 2007, 10:52 GMT
By James Welsh, International Editor

CNN is to open a bureau with full broadcast and production facilities in Abu Dhabi, it was confirmed today.

The Abu Dhabi production base is part of an expansion of the network's newsgathering facilities in the United Arab Emirates. It will support current CNN bureaux in Baghdad, Beirut, Cario and Jerusalem and will complement CNN's existing base in Dubai.

"This is a major step forward for CNN as we ramp up our newsgathering capabilities around the world," said Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International. "Besides, the United Arab Emirates is the perfect location for an operation of this kind both editorially and logistically. This announcement comes quickly on the heels of the details we recently released about additional resources in India, Korea and Japan, and in the coming weeks, we will announce new editorial operations in Africa and parts of Europe."

Wilf Dinnick, currently a correspondent stationed in the Middle East for ABC News, will join CNN and be based in Abu Dhabi. Samson Desta, formerly a supervising editor on CNN's International Desk in Atlanta, has been named bureau chief.

Who'd have thought it would be Dhabi that got the bureau, not Dubai? The shift has started. Can we expect to see Dhabi and Doha leading the media race in the future, with oil-poor Dubai trailing behind?

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Here Toady, gone tomorrow?

One of DMO's favourite moles has come out of retirement with this nugget:

At the end of the month, Emirates Toady is to be rebranded as a business paper, known as Emirates 24/7.

UPDATE: and it's still crap.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

The wrong kind of screen sirens?

From an anonymous contributor -

For all the media locked out of the gala opening of the Middle East International Film Festival, it's interesting to note that Festival Director Jon Fitzgerald has now fled the country before the shit properly hits the fan.

Poor Jon, the only professional involved in the festival is being blamed for everything, including the non-payment of certain key individuals. Yes, those same individuals who would not let the projectionist into the auditorium for the gala screening of Atonement because he did not have a ticket.

Yet another PR catastrophe for the UAE.

Note from DMO: doesn't bode well for the UAE's film festivals - we hear there is trouble at the DIFF mill too.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Crossing the fence

Hardened hacks are throwing down their quills and taking up comfortable jobs on the other side of the fence, either for PR, government, or DubaiInc.

Anyone else swapped newspaperdom for PR? If so, any regrets?

In other news, as you may have noticed we're a bit up against it and would welcome more contributors. Just drop us an email if you are interested. And do it from an anonymous account, not your itp or address.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

It's Toady Time

By popular demand, a discussion about the movings and shakings at Dubai's favourite government newspaper, Emirates Today. And the rest of AMG to boot.

Word has it there are BIG shake up plans afoot (Kane) at ET business.

Speaking of so called "freedom of speech", can anyone enlighten us to the where-abouts of Vix and Nannette from Dubai Eye? The Dubai rumor mill is rife with whispers of letters from high up to pull the show and presenters due to certain remarks said on-air.

But before we start, here's a little video that came our way some time back that explains why AMG is the most successful media company in the United Arab Emirates:

Go wild.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


Let the braying cease! Yes, we've been slack in updating.

We've been too busy checking Facebook every 90 seconds to see if it's been blocked by Etisalat to do any posting/moderating/work. We sent out the work experience juniors to find snippets for DMO but they only came back with tales of exploitation and dissent among the masses - old news.

Situation normal to be resumed as soon as possible.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Dubai journos jailed

Happy Ramadan for two Dubai journalists.
Two journalists sentenced to jail for libel
By Bassam Za'za', Staff Reporter
Published: September 24, 2007, 00:25
Dubai: Two senior journalists have been jailed for two months each after they were found guilty in a libel case marking what judicial officials described as 'an unusual verdict'.

The Dubai Court of Misdemeanour found the senior Egyptian journalist and senior Indian editor guilty of libelling an Iranian woman.

The Public Prosecution charged the two defendants with publishing a defamatory article in the English newspaper where they work. In her complaint the woman accused the defendants of defaming her after publishing the story.

The article said the woman collected a dowry cheque of Dh83,000 which bounced when she went to cash it. She thereafter filed a police complaint against her divorcee. The court found the defendants guilty though they pleaded innocent.

Gulf News has learnt that defence lawyer Samir Jaafar is planning to appeal the initial verdict today. The ruling is still subject to appeal.

A former judge who requested anonymity described the ruling as 'uncommon and unusual especially in the UAE'.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Are you working Ramadan hours?

Is your media company flouting the Ramadan hours laws?

DUBAI -- The working hours during the holy month of Ramadan will be shorter by two hours for all private sector employees regardless of their religion or nationality, a senior official of the Ministry of Labour (MoL) has said.

Any company found violating this directive will be penalised as per the Labour Law, said Humeid bin Demas, assistant under-secretary of the MoL. A Dh10,000 penalty would be slapped on the violating companies, besides a three-month ban.

Let us know below, and name and shame the media companies failing to respect Islamic law and tradition.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Neverending Job Ad

This has to be seen to be believed (click for the full size version):

Anyone planning to apply?

Saturday, 25 August 2007

For all the jaded journos

Due to popular demand, here's a thread on the new Abu Dhabi newspaper:

Newland seeks 'jaded' journos for Arab paper launch

24 August 2007
By Patrick Smith

Former Daily Telegraph editor Martin Newland is set to launch a new national newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, creating jobs for 200 journalists from around the world.

"This area is absolutely exploding with potential – in many ways running too fast with infrastructure having to catch up. The paper is aimed at anyone at the high end, so you're looking at broadsheet quality, people earning over £100,000 who speak English. In this place, that's the Indian middle classes, the Anglosphere ex-pats and Emiratis, who speak it fluently."

The paper currently has no title or a launch date more concrete than "months, not years away", but Newland stressed its future is "assured" by significant investment from the investment wing of the Abu Dhabi government.

So what's the reckoning? A proper paper or an "Abu Dhabi Today" government promotional rag? And is Newland coming over all guns blazing a la Frank Kane or does he have some clue that this is a region where a newspaper nearly gets shut down because it takes a story from AFP rather than WAM or reprints a relatively innocuous article from the Telegraph?

Friday, 24 August 2007

The Devil Wears Primark

It seems that working for media in Dubai can generate instant class status. An anonymous tip claims that the editor of an ITP magazine has requested that all photographers call her Ma'am. Guess which one?

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


A reader is curious about the comings and goings at City7:
"It would appear that [a guy who was fired from radio then fired from City 7] is not the only recent loss of what was Dubai's only attempt at an independent local television station.

"Following his termination with immediate effect, it now appears a number of higher-ups have "jumped the proverbial ship" before it really and truly goes under. Anyone have the inside scoops?"
Any TV tarts out there willing to spill?

Monday, 30 July 2007

Saturday, 28 July 2007

The "romance" of media

So which of you esteemed members of the press helped indoctrinate these poor little kiddies? - LINK
DUBAI — In a refreshing departure from tradition, 25 youngsters aged between five and 17, belonging to Kids Press Club, held a Press conference yesterday.

The workshop seems to have had a huge impact on 13-year-old Marziah Rashid’s future plans. She now aspires to be a print journalist, thanks to the trip to a media house. “I would like to take up journalism. I am now confident that I will be comfortable with this profession,” she quips enthusiastically.

Maryam Bin Fahad, Executive Director of DPC, observed that it was an equally exciting opportunity for industry professionals to share their experience and knowledge with the eager bunch of participants. This is the eighth edition of the annual summer media programme hosted by DPC.
"quips enthusiastically" "eager bunch" "refreshing departure from tradition" if this is the kind of journalism the children are exposed to, god save us all when they start working at KT or the Toady.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Snap snap

Dubai Studio City is apparently going to require permits for any type of photo session in the UAE according to moryarti. At 500 doubloons a pop.
Oh, and dig this. This permission is required even if photo shoot is within company premises and done by company employed photographer. There is also talk that police will have executive authority to make sure this "regulation" is implemented.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Women, but not TV editorial, for rent

Another anonymous submission:

"i was watching an American TV show and there was a young, impressionable girl in it who thought she had been discovered and was about become a modelling star. Her justification for the belief was that she had been booked do a 'photo shoot' in Dubai. Little did she know, her agent / manager / pimp had actually arranged for her to be a hooker for a couple of days.

"The plot was foiled by our undercover hero, who was told: 'The girls only model in America, but if you're going to the Middle East, I'll get them to do whatever you want'.

"Quite apart from this glowing travelogue, my favourite line was provided by the wide-eyed innocent girl, who said: 'I'm doing a shoot in Dubai. That's near Saudi Arabia'."

Whoops. The long arm of censorship doesn't stretch as far as cable channels in the US, then.

I'm pretty sure DTCM didn't sanction that particular mention of our fair city, and I'm not sure it's going to appear in the press clippings report at the month. But then again, if the TV crew had been hosted by a world-class airline and stayed in an iconic landmark hotel, perhaps things might have turned out differently ...

You can imagine the reworked script now. Obviously, no hooker activities involved, and the wide-eyed innocent would have said: "I'm doing a fashion shoot in Dubai. That's the tourism and business hub of the Middle East, formerly a sleepy pearl-fishing village, but now a glistening metropolis, with something for everyone, including a cheery little mascot called Modhesh!"

Friday, 6 July 2007

Quiz: guess the "vibrant" media company

This ad landed in my inbox. I have cut out the name of the the company, let us see if you can all guess who it is, from the description:

[MYSTERY COMPANY] is a leading media company based in Dubai, one of the fastest growing, most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in the world, as well as being tax-free and sunny all year round.

Priding itself on ideas, solutions, speed and impact, [MYSTERY COMPANY] has a diverse range of operations...

Critically, the applicant must have an interest in the world, contemporary design and global trends, which will enable them to help stimulate and catalyse creativity, through thought-provoking and challenging ideas in a television environment.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Size matters, apparently

Just received in an anonymous submission (not that we get any other kind).

Apparently the reason Campaign is so delayed is because there has been an order from On High that all magazines must be resized to A4 format, so that they don't resemble newspapers. Construction Week and a couple of others have apparently already resized, and Communicate is about to. Anyone else heard this? It sounds like utter lunacy.

There has been a rumour rumbling around for some time that there will be a ban on all tabloids - can anyone shed any light on this?

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Last night a DJ saved my life

Lots of lively discussion and learned debate between the smudgers among us, but what about those on the airwaves? Are any of Dubai's DJs out there? Because I have a question. When a great sheikh dies, radio output appears to move in a progression from the Quran to classical music to "easy listening" and back to pop. Is there a set timetable for this? And do you all have a special library ready for each stage? Or is it all piped from WAM?

Please enlighten us, since I am genuinely curious.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The latest copy rules at Emirates Today

From an anonymous submission:

Please avoid using sex and its related words like gay, homosexual, rape and prostitution in headlines.

Do not also use words like trafficking in headlines.

Avoid labourer in headline and body copy. Use words like workers or employees or staff.

Do not use pictures of construction workers.

Superb, challenging journalism indeed.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Tut tut

This was a comment in an earlier post, but is worth its own mention:

"A cheeky PR lady has just helped her hack fiancé win the laptop which was a competition prize in a press conference this week, so either guess which brand it was, or guess who the hack and the lady were?"

Note from DMO Ed: let's hope he isn't a journo from ITP, as we all know he would have to hand it in if it was worth more than $30, wouldn't he?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Standard Slips

According to 7days, ITP's chances of getting a licence for its daily business paper are "virtually non-existent". Surely a company like ITP wouldn't make the mistake of boasting about a newspaper launch, bragging about "Western standards of journalism", hiring the staff, producing dummies, spending bucket loads of cash etc without making sure they'd got the licence first? Would they? Oh, hold on, they've done it once before. Oops.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

A fairytale love story for Dubai's most glamorous couple

Glowing with happpiness and pre-marital dewy delight, ITP sales supremo and frequent Ahlan Top 100er Neil Petch, and his beautiful model girlfriend Olga, are delighted to announce their wedding website, at

Guests will enter to the beautiful strains of Ella Fitzgerald singing Dream A Little Dream in a stunning Flash presentation designed by one of Dubai's hottest web designers.

On the front page the bride-to-be wears a stunning yellow Cavalli cocktail dress, showing off the elegant curves that Neil so admires. The model's long blonde tresses flow free about her shoulders, and the look is finished off with simple diamond stud earrings and a deep red rose. Neil is resplendent in a dapper Armani jacket and crisp white linen shirt.

The couple have decorated their website in a theme of floral pink with Copperplate font details, designed to add a touch of romance and elegance to every page. As they invite us into their beautiful cyber-home, Neil reveals what first made him fall in love with his beautiful model girlfriend.

"My lovely fiancĂ©e Olga is a luminous beacon of joy," the proud groom-to-be confesses. "Kind, sexy, funny, wise, Olga has it all. Beats me how one can be modest with all that, but she’s that too, in spades."

As the couple recline in a photographed beach, Olga models a daring Gucci bikini and jaunty sunhat. Neil, after enjoying a Cuban cigar with the many VIP media and celebrity friends that will join him for his stag night, shows off his bronzed pecs as he frolics in the surf of a pristine golden beach.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Close encounter - but for who?

Confirmation of what we had hoped was a vicious rumour has come in the form of The Secret, Secret Dubai's newsletter, which arrived in the DMO in-boxes today. The typically veiled snippet referred to a "notorious H.A.C.K" who was in the UAE on a false passport.

Yes pop pickers, could Mr X be back in town? Dubai media veterans may recall his former aliases, which include: ITP journo, 7Days, freelance "PR" consultant, accompanier of ladies of negotiable affection. Oh, and in case we forget, convicted felon.

Mr X has had a couple of stays in a Dubai jail already, for alcohol-abetted auto scrapes and japes. How on earth could he get back in the country, we hear you ask?

Our second source confirms: "He's in town on a false passport and already got picked up by the Jebel Ali cops. They suspected who he was, but couldn't be bothered to pursue it, and let him go."

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Who needs an audit?

After loudly proclaiming that Emirates Today would be audited within months of its launch, it seems media guru Abdul Latif has now decided that even internationally-respected BPA is not up to the task (Communicate, June 2007).

"I'm the first to encourage auditing," he tells the magazine, apparently with a straight face.
But, despite being audited, many publications still inflate their circulations, he goes on to claim.
He then, again without a hint of irony, goes on to call for greater "transparency".

Is this just the latest hint that all is not well at the white-hot spearhead of the media revolution? Rumour has it Matthew Johnson has quit Dubai Eye, AMG seem to have been snubbed by Vogue, and Emirates Today consistently plumbs new depths. Could it be that, having damaged but failed to destroy 7days, Latif is now trying to discredit anyone with an audit?

Or does he have a point. Do audited titles manage to cheat the system?

Sunday, 3 June 2007

GN should be ashamed

The headline:
Marriage between close relatives 'does not pose health risk'

is nowhere near a fair summary of:

DUBAI — Marrying close relatives within the limits of religious sanctions may not necessarily pose health risks for offspring

"May not"=/="Does not"

Up next:
Shooting people in the head 'does not kill them'
Jumping off the Burj 'does not result in death'
Writing for Gulf News 'does not make you a journalist'

Friday, 1 June 2007

Hot off the cattywalk?

The editorial staff at Emirates Today seems to have really got its Agent Provocateur knickers in a twist over the comments of Conde Nast chairman Jonathan Newhouse, who rejected requests to licence its title Vogue to an unnamed "Middle East media company", which proposed an Arabic version.

The horror and revulsion positively drips off the page.. but on closer examination, does Newhouse have a point? After all, he claims that there was an element in the Middle East that rejects freedom of expression, equality for women and expression of sexuality, and that he didn't want to risk provoking a negative, even violent reaction.

The comments are spot on, and factually correct. All of those points do exist in the Middle East, whether we like it or not. Emirates Today's inflammatory headline ("VOGUE CHAIRMAN SAYS "NO" TO MUSLIMS") is misrepresentative and over the top.

Could it be a case of sour grapes and that the paper's owner, AMG, was the unsuccessful applicant for the franchise? Somehow, I can't see any of the other publishing houses leaking Newhouse's emails to ET.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Muffling Morocco

Why is Gulf News being so alarmingly coy?

Dubai: A UAE-based relative of Madeleine McCann is trying to raise awareness in the Arab world of the young girl's disappearance.

Oil industry worker John Sweeney, an Abu Dhabi resident who is related to Madeleine's grandmother Eileen, said he is keen for Arabic speakers to learn about the plight of the four-year-old.

There are suspicions that Madeleine, who disappeared from her family's holiday apartment in Portugal on May 3, has been taken to an Arab country (Gulf News has withheld the name of the nation).

If they mean Morocco, then that reported sighting has been all over the internet and newspapers for weeks.

Monday, 21 May 2007

What next for 7DAYS?

Like all the best Emirates Today exclusives, we're slightly slow off the mark on this one. Unlike Emirates Today, it was because we were checking our facts (and because our 7DAYS moles have gone undercover).

Editor extraordinaire Neil Sawyer is indeed out, as is his predecessor and (apparently) the MD too. Could this spell the end for Dubai's spunkiest paper? Or will Associated Newspapers step in and save the day?

We're just trying to locate a 7DAYS employee from beneath the bottom of a pint glass to confirm details, so if anyone can fill in the gaps, please go ahead.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

"Time to say goodbye"

Yep - hankies out for media and PR bunnies alike - for hackspruikermedialegendextraordinaire Greg kHunt is leaving us forever.

The time has come to change this column a little. After talking with my editor and the powers that be at 7DAYS, they have agreed that it should take a more international slant. The reason for this is two-fold. Firstly, we can always do with a little ‘freshening up’ of a weekly column so that we don't keep revisiting the same topics and secondly, my family and I are leaving Dubai.

Full tears of joyjerking story here.

Perhaps you'd all like to reminisce your fave memories from 18 years of media excellence?

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Burrell stung in Dubai

And who might this be posing as a "business backer" in Dubai?

The usual fake sheikh or someone a bit closer to home?

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Forum Bore 'em

This came from an anonymous submission:

"Poor Abdullatif Al Sayegh went down like a lead balloon at the Innovation Forum a couple of days ago. The moderator, BBC's Nima Abu Wardeh, interrupted him twice while he rambled on endlessly about Arab Media Group. After sharply ordering him to stay on topic, she then ordered him back to his seat.

"But it didn't stop there for Dubai's media chief. The first question from the audience was aimed at Al Sayegh, with the delegate asking why his presentation was not relevant to innovation or the business forum. Al Sayegh started blustering about how many ideas AMG has. Nima interrupted him twice to demand he provide an actual example of what these ideas actually were. He cited Shoof TV.

"The whole excruciating performance made David Brent look like Bill Clinton."

Monday, 7 May 2007

And Ham begat Shem begat blah blah

Pity the scribe that has to type up this stuff, probably getting beheaded for every typo:
Abu Dhabi/Riyadh: President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent a cable of condolence to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia on the demise of Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdul Aziz.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, sent a similar cable to King Abdullah.

Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Presidential Affairs, and Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, yesterday conveyed condolences from Shaikh Khalifa to King Abdullah on the demise of the Emir of Makkah Province.

No chance of just writing:
The UAE government has sent condolences to Saudi Arabia for the death of the ruler of Mecca.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

R.I.P. E.E.P.

Time to put black armbands on
For the Emirates Evening Post is gone
It's finally given up the ghost
Let's bid adieu to the late great Post

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Rumour mill in overdrive

This one is spreading like wildfire - apparently ITP is suing Haymarket through its UK presence over the loss of Campaign Middle East. Can anyone shed any light on the matter?

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Parchment and quill, anyone?

It hasn't been a good day for technology here at DMO Towers. Firstly, we were very excited to hear that the Dubai Press Club had launched its website for the Arab Media Forum 2007. Until we realised that the website ( doesn't work.

Then, trying to read all about Etisalat's record profits (yes, du is really putting up a strong fight), DMO hacks were disappointed to see that not one of the links worked on the daily alert email from

Monday, 16 April 2007

Mirror Mirror on the IT Department Wall

ET hacks: all your computers are mirrored. And you didn't hear it from us. xxx

Monday, 9 April 2007

Bring back the Business Channel ....

There's a sentence I thought I would never utter, but faced with the banal offerings from Emirates News and City 7, it has left me with no option. Dubai is a city with global aspirations, yet its programming (in particular the news and business) is shameful.

I can't even bring myself to watch Emirates News any more, but I'm informed it is getting no better, despite the presence of newscaster Ramia Farrage, who has reached No.93 on Arabian Business' top 100 most powerful Arabs (on the basis of this, I'm not sure how she rates higher than the Qatar Airways' CEO, or even CNN's Hala Gorani).

And as for City 7: just three examples needed. That Woman's Show, which plunges to new depths ("the German carmaker, Skoda"); the weekend repeats of the weekday news programmes (news? current affairs?); and the superb bit of scheduling that puts an aerobics show on after midnight on a Thursday, when any exercise taking place in Dubai is likely to be of the drinking or horizonal variety.

The ghostly "freelancer"

Such a juicy nugget it deserves its own post (from an anon comment in the previous post):

there is this particular "editor" of a magazine who ghost writes articles for his own magazine and collects the payments through various accounts that he has created. this guy is an absolute genius. A master of download he ensures that he stays in his job by sucking up to his management and of course stabbing anyone who could remotely disturb his operations.

Well the journalists will all know who i am talking about .... he he .

Nice work if you can get it.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Trashing PR

So journalists hate PR people and never read their press releases. Or only print them if there's a decent gift attached.

Hands up then.

Which of you lot filter certain PR companies straight to trash?

And who goes to High Rise press conferences just to get iPods?

Friday, 23 March 2007

Blind item

Which just-departed magazine editor, who is moving ino PR for a luxury goods firm, thanked her former boss to the point of spine-chilling embarrassment to her colleagues, finishing up with "I love Ian so much". Whoever knew life at Al Wahibi Building in Garhoud was so touchy feely?

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Poor Campaigners

Life is not so good for Campaign staffers these days. There is no sign of the licence, so they are producing stories for a continually updated edition, just in case they get the go-ahead to actually print something. The website is in a state of disarray (as in, no work has been done on creating one).

The editorial team was last spotted playing cards at their desk, with the Campaign desktop flag fluttering limply in the airconditioned breeze.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Outdoor Advertising and the Tolls

I have been thinking about this for awhile and thought I would throw it out there. How do the tolls affect the outdoor advertising on Sheikh Zayed Road? All billboards are fully booked for the next 3 years, so the media buying agencies are probably thrilled. However, visibility will be very different -- or will it? What will it do to the other 'alternative' road?

Friday, 16 March 2007

The art of deception

I had considered this off-topic, but decided to post after receiving a handful of emails on the subject. Most of us are guilty of criticising Dubai at every opportunity, but many members of the media community have come out in protest over The Observer's report on the Gulf Art Fair, branding it ill-researched, factually incorrect, and verging on racist.

Among the cariactures and cliches was the description of UAE nationals as resembling "a laundry load of linen drying in a stiff breeze". Factual inaccuracies include: the "Arabic" American flag painting was actually in Farsi, and Dr Omar did not ask the value of the "Nation of Islam" piece, just pointed to it as it said "Allah" in Arabic. Oh, and Dubai has plenty of bookshops for the record. Letters can be submitted to

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Three cheers for Secret Dubai

A quick note of congratulations to Secret Dubai from everyone here at DMO headquarters. The blog has won the Africa & Middle East category of the 2007 Bloggie awards. Secret Dubai's blog has been forging its way through the mediocrity with its satire, humour and comment on life, business and politics in the UAE. And, despite being blocked by the censors for a couple of weeks in 2005, the blog has grown in strength (and readership) since then.

Xquisite or xxxx?

After two years of plotting in a secret basement, Gulf News has finally launched XPress. So is it really a 'new style of newspaper', or just a mildly better organised imitation of City Times with a confused looking front cover and more colours than Sport Extra (if that's possible)? Should 7days - XPress' self-proclaimed rival - be worried?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Can anyone hack it?

There's been a lot of criticism in the 7days post of the quality (or lack thereof) of journalists/columnists in the region. So is anyone actually any good? Who's your favourite columnist? If nothing else, this post should give those people "close to" Mark Johnson and Jason Leavy an opportunity to sing their praises...

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A load of royal twiddle

The recent Abu Dhabi visit of Prince Charles and his wife Camilla raised uproar in the world's media over some comments HRH supposedly made about the perils of eating McDonald's food. (Needless to say, our sources tell us that he was misquoted, which makes you feel a bit sorry for the supersized firm: it has previously donated substantial sums of money to HRH's charity).

One journalist, although ignoring the furore over Big Macs, still managed to ruffle the Royal feathers. Under a cloak of anonymity to avoid a one-way pass to the Tower of London, he emailed: "I wanted to ask him if he'd seen The Queen yet but didn't have the balls. But I did tell him that he'd failed to twiddle after drinking his coffee. He sarcastically replied: 'I am aware of the twiddle. I have been around for some time, you know.' "

No word on whether Camiknickers twiddled. (Apparently, the twiddle is when you shake the little cup for arabic coffee when you're done - wasn't aware that was the technical term though).

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

7days, 6days, 5days and counting

A reader suggests it is time to do something on the "slow demise" of everyone's favourite ragloid, 7Days.

A number of staff have left, there's a new editor who rumour has it doesn't have a clue, editorially they're pretty much avoiding anything interesting, they've lost distribution in Emaar, they're back down to 6days...

And Project X is launching soon. Though no doubt it will be crap too.

So what to think? Did the Russian-bitch-scandal and Arab press whingeing over a few punctuation marks in the infamous Presidential interview finally rip the balls off Dubai's best antidote to the Toady?

Friday, 2 March 2007

Ahlan's turgid 100

Having just got back from a holiday in the land of civilisation, it's taken me a while to clicking through the Ahlan top 100 online. I didn't think this display of egos, money and lack of taste could get any worse. I was wrong - what a list of dross.

I can't understand any logic or rationale in having people like Sharla Musaibih (women's shelter) or the lady who campaigns for the blind alongside a load of wanky DJs and owners of a couple of clothes shops, alongside a few random Emiratis placed solely for wasta/desperation/ad revenue purposes. Special mention goes to the entire AlZa'al family - I was almost disappointed not to see their servants and dogs with their own rankings.

And as for the ghastly horror that said this: her "dream Dubai project" would be to create an entirely different kind of exhibition. "I'd like to open a floating visual room of powerful images for everyone to step into and experience," Emma says.

I'd like to open a room full of the shredded viscera of every single person on this godforsaken list (except the charity people who should never have been tarred with Ahlan's drossy brush in the first place) and cram Ahlan's entire readership into it lock the bloody door until their Botoxed faces start to shrivel and they self-combust with the horror of spending an entire year without being seen at Sho Cho/Boudoir/BloodyBuddha Bar. Perhaps that fantasy will get me a listing in next year's Shite100?

The only good point was that a couple of hideously fake expat brats I know dropped out of the rankings, as did Neil "I have lots of cars and am friends with models" Petch and Walid "successful ITP media scion" Akawi. Or maybe they are the cover stars of the print version, which I can't be arsed to look at.

And before ITP slaves point out that my criticism comes out of jealousy, or that it's great how they have inspired this post, they are wrong. My sources tell me that Ahlan has been turned down more times than Britney Spears' rehab counsellor.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Today's tittle tattle

Blind Item 1: It sounds like the start of a really cracking joke: "ITP boss Robert Serafin, Haymarket's Lord (Michael) (Tarzan) Heseltine and Scottish media guru Andrew Neil were having a meal at Vu's..." You can make up your own *punch*line, given that's what nearly happened when the bearded one of the three stormed out.

Blind Item 2: Which British press baron wrote a letter to an ultra senior Dubai dishdash using the actual phrase: "call your dogs off" in reference to an alleged smear campaign against a Dubai daily tabloid?

Harper's horror

A truly self-congratulatory press release from ITP to announce the launch of Harper's BAZAAR.

Editor Rachel Sharp (formerly at the helm of the twin fabulousity of Ahlan and Grazia) says: "Everybody in the fashion industry that I speak to in Milan, Paris and New York is desperate to be involved in the excitement of Dubai. It is a huge market for them and they are delighted that a magazine with the authority of Harper's BAZAAR is launching in the city."

Sadly, in a city full of superlatives, George J. Green, president of Hearst Magazines International, who have licensed the title, was neither desperate nor delighted, but merely "pleased" to be working with ITP.

Thank goodness for Walid Akawi, one of ITP's titans, who finished off the press statement with a worthy flourish. Just take a moment to absorb the glorious poetry of his quotes, as well as the EXTRA EMPHASIS provided by superfluous upper case.

"They were dazzled by the energy and enlightenment of Dubai's people, and were convinced that the city's women would fall in love with the style and authority of Harper's BAZAAR. When we showed them that cities all over the Gulf, including Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Doha and Oman were developing with the same passion, they knew that they had to bring a Middle East edition of BAZAAR to this market."

If a PR company had sent out a press release this gushing, it would have been deleted or slated by the media, most notably former ITP title Campaign. And then there's the notion of the "enlightenment" of Dubai's people - a questionable claim at the best of times.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Same same Campaign

Campaign is dead, long live Campaign..... The editorial team have now moved across from ITP to Motivate, where they will recommence their work on the weekly magazine once the licence has been processed. An uncharacteristic display of generousness from ITP by not banning them? Or maybe they were all on Dubai Media City visas ..... One thing is clear: Motivate staff are making the Auld Enemy feel very welcome: a Campaign flag stood proud on the vacated desks to welcome the new arrivals. But will Campaign retain its bite at Motivate?

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Staying Alive, barely

A second delightful anonymous submission:

A certain government agency looking to establish a bigger and better corporate image here in Dubai has gone and opened a closed pitch with only three agencies requested to present.

It is not unusual in Dubai or the Middle East for companies or brands to choose and qualify agencies before sending out a brief and without informing the general marketing public. Nor is it unusual that because someone knows someone, then a second or third someone, can effectively find himself or herself meeting the first someone to pitch for something he or she did not anticipate. Effectively fooling themselves into the foolish thought that it was the quality of their creative genius and level of commitment that got the first someone to come knocking at their door on their own.

The cockiness with which that someone then proceeds beats this writer, however it must be said, the creative concepts with which two of these three agencies came up with have humbled this writer in a way entirely unknown to me before.

Our first someone honestly and with all their hearts - pause for effect - thought that presenting a creative concept for a campaign aimed at safe driving to the tune of the BG’s Staying Alive was entirely appropriate. Just because you got it right with the local Dubai airlines, doesn’t mean you’ll be lucky the second time around. Meanwhile someone else figured a play on words such as Rich Tourist Attractions was a sure fire way to create trustworthy and reliable brand positioning. Did you reward yourself with a chocolate after that one? And I’d like to see that painted across the Abras please.

All this someone has to say is, everything about all of this in Dubai has become mediocre to the point where the majority of those working in agencies have turned into completely irrelevant robots. One wonders if some of those lurking in the dark corners of creative departments in the agencies across Dubai actually dusted those creative brain cells before they attempted to come up with such pathetic communication strategy. They pay can't be that bad. For now the public eagerly awaits more insulting advertising.

Raining on prom night

A delightful anonymous submission:

Last November, a relatively new agency based in DMC specialising in marketing communications and trying to pose as new media representatives (more like wannabes) took to the high society of Dubai like fish take to water with an event that promised lots of exposure and a return in pr beyond measure. What the GM of this new agency did not expect is that his past experience in managing night clubs might not exactly translate as well as he had hoped into the foray of event management and buttering up diplomat's wives.

Things didn't go quite as planned and a million dollar wedding dress didn't quite turn out to be the show stopper it was expected to be. One has to wonder if it was the blue eyed 35 year old GM's preoccupation with every 5'9 blonde that crossed his path that interfered with his judgement leaving his staff high and dry clambering and running like chickens with their heads cut off trying to put things together at the very last minute. Or were the staff equally incompetent? All the king’s men couldn’t have helped.

Fortunately for those in attendance, backstage passes were not part of the package and the only complaint was “Did you notice that the chicken was a little dry?” However the same cannot be said for those that paid to sponsor and exhibit at the event. Imagine 12 luxury cars sitting at the security gate’s of Burj Al Arab waiting to be admitted because someone forgot to bring the security passes for the drivers. And just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, thunder and rain came down hard soaking entire racks of designer clothing left unattended in front of the hotel.

And just in case you missed the circus the first time around, the agency and its GM with all his wanna-be Don Juan stylings have promised to make this painfully amusing experience an annual event despite the lack of post event positive feedback in the papers from the backing party which begs the question if the Dubai Ladies Club don’t want it why should we?

Look for it next November. One can think of two or ten establishments that will not touch it with a 100 foot pole. Where’s that bottle of Moet when you need it eh?

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Painting a glossy picture

Following the Bahrain business paper recruitment, it's time for part two in the series Violations of the Trade Description Act.

This advert ran in the Guardian Jobs section and the first part of the ad is pasted below. I didn't have the heart to copy the second half as my computer crashed over the words "amazing country" and "the world's fastest-growing media climate".

Dubai’s leading publishing house requires an editor to work on their flagship insurance title, the leading publication of its kind to the Middle East. The company has a strong reputation, with its publications being circulated to senior figures within global blue-chip companies.

Which company do we think has decided it is Dubai's leading publisher this week? Could it be ITP? No. Motivate? No. Previous incumbent Al Hilal? No? Shame on you if you didn't guess the correct answer - The Media Factory.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Dubai TV's terrifying ad

A flash presentation of bloodshed, carnage and orgiastic violence would be less unsettling than this horror:

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Does this make anyone want to turn on Dubai TV news? Or run for the hills/dunes?

Friday, 16 February 2007

Who's zooming who?

Now, for this week's round-up of shenanigans in the murky media and PR world:

Which PR agency needs to worry about the airing of some dirty laundry? Staff may need to start covering up the bedroom antics of one of their clients, as her list of conquests gets circulated around Dubai? Her victims: half her senior personnel, as well as a couple of prominent locals and the head of one of the biggest companies in Dubai.

Which poppet has been a really good sport by offering more services to her client than just PR? We wonder if her fees rose as much as her client did.

Business picks up in Bahrain

There was an interesting recruitment advert doing the rounds this week. I've reproduced below (complete with lack of punctuation and typos).

Closing date: 24/02/2007
Job title: Journalists

Full details: Our client the largest publishing company in the Middle East has an outstanding opportunity for a strong business journalists looking for a fresh challenge.

We are launching a Bahrain-based regional business daily and require journalists at all levels to for a deputy editor, reporters and sub-editors roles.

Our aim is to provide the most comprehensive, accurate and up-to-date coverage of Gulf markets, economies and companies - as well as breaking off-diary financial stories.

We offer exciting and challenging opportunities for business - oriented journalists to join a team based in Bahrain - the Middle East's banking hub.

For further details please email a Word format resume and we will arrange an interview for suitable candidates.

New regional daily from the largest publishing company in the Middle East? Could Arabian Business Standard finally be getting a licence, but in Bahrain - which would be an audacious move for ITP if true? Or, could Motivate be ready to recapture its dominance over the regional market by beating ITP to a business daily licence?

Actually, it's an advert from Bahrain-based Al Hilal, who are extending the business coverage in Gulf Daily News. The largest publishing company in the Middle East? You decide.

X marks the spot?

Gulf News' tabloid - Xpress, formerly known has Project X, has been given a March 15 launch date ... March 2007, though I seem to remember it's been "about to launch" for more than a year now, making it the fifth-most delayed project in Dubai after each of the Palms and The World.

It will have a print run of 80,000 - 100,000, apparently. Is that on the Gulf media counting scale, where a copy in the hand is worth two in the named print run?

Gulf Snooze staff say it will compete with 7Days. I'm not quite sure how: it's only going out twice a week. Actually, come to think of it, not sure that even qualifies it to be called a newspaper.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

PR Agencies wasting whose money?

Emirates Today ran a story back on 6/2/2007 that was quite interesting. Not sure how no one noticed it here.

To quote:

Public relations agencies are largely failing to provide their clients with value for money, according to the managing director of media analysts Mediastow.

Mohammad Elzubeir said UAE companies were wasting money on ineffective PR.

“Of course, there are good and bad PR agencies; some understand how to measure their effectiveness and some don’t,” said Elzubeir.

Mediastow surveyed 150 PR practitioners, 87 PR agencies and more than 200 in house PR managers. The study showed that 83 per cent of the respondents do not know how to measure their work, while only 12 per cent counted clippings and five per cent were able to calculate the equivalent advertising value.

Why is this not surprising?

Monday, 12 February 2007

Gulf News: cock-up or cop out?

The Gulf News ran an interview with Dr Amr Jad, a consultant from Riyadh Armed Forces Hospital, where the doctor said sex education in the Middle East did not need to cover ways of preventing STDs.

Apparently, the doctor's views were "putting a damper on HIV/Aids awareness efforts in the region". I'll say.

This is where editors should get involved. There should have been uproar at the daily meeting and - with a lack of probing questions in the article - there should have been a stern comment piece written forthwith. Much as everyone loves Secret Dubai, we need some baring of teeth in the local and regional media.

Haymarket to buy into Motivate?

The plot thickens. Apparently, today's the day Motivate is signing with Haymarket to take over Campaign, having barely let the ink dry on the termination agreement with ITP. Furthermore, a well-placed media source has said Haymarket has already bought into Motivate and may increase their shareholding.

I should point out that the rumour mill has gone into turbo-overdrive over the fate of Campaign, etc. People have been musing over Ian Fairservice's exit strategy since the dawn of time, but this looks like a realistic scenario. This way, the Motivate supremo keeps his finger in the publishing pie, while cashing in part of his retirement plan.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

The gagged German

Is this the first instance (at least publically admitted) of a UAE newspaper, in this instance Gulf News, "buying up" a story subject and preventing them from talking to other media?

Explaining his dilemma, Graf said, "The reporter who first carried my story said I could talk only to German media and not anyone from the local media until he carried my follow-up on Friday. I know this is a free world and you have the right to write about me. But I cannot talk anything till they allow me."

It's a well known tactic elsewhere, but unfamiliar and possibly new to the local media scene, no wonder Gulf Today describes it:

"...clear manifestation of conditional help and how unhealthy competition can spoil professional ethics in journalism.

It would be also interesting to see what - if any - contract Graf has signed with Gulf News and what legal representation he has. A few Max Cliffords would be quite an interesting addition to the local "celebrity" scene.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Farewell Campaign

So farewell to Campaign ME, at least from the Serafin stable.

The editorial team got the bad news seconds after putting the last edition to bed.

Allegedly the split between ITP and Haymarket was over revenue sharing. But rumour has it that Campaign is off to Motivate, which has a five magazine deal with Haymarket.

The Spin will be sorely missed, as well as the Campaign blog.

Archived polls

Let the games begin...

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