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?


chris said...

Hmmm - the Dubai Bureau opened in 2002 in DMC (and is a 'fully fledged broadcast facility') but there are no free zones in the capital, so where in Abu Dhabi will they be based - and is there any connection with Abu Dhabi Media (ex. EMI) and the new "National" publication?

Anonymous said...

ABC News is in the process of opening a bureau in Dubai.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, dubai has not a dirham of credibility left - DMC is a laughing stock for its appalling behaviour. AMG (Awful Media Group) and its hapless and pathetic boss man - are hollow, poorly constructed and will not stand the test of time - Dubai's days of glory are limited - even labourers won't come here any reap what you sow.

Anonymous said...

people...The CNN 'bureau' is a shell...There is very little original reporting coming out of that bureau...not for a lack of trying on the reporters' part. The HQ doesn't give a toss about any news from the region unless it's about war.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it all happening in Doha with AJ?

Anonymous said...

OK,nobody wants to play in this nursery. How about these topics? Anyone?

1. Female reporters on City 7 being told to lose weight so they don't offend viewers with that gigantic 10 pounds the camera is meant to add.

2. The son of a certain Dubai publishing stalwart getting busted by the cops for underage drinking at the golf but getting off scot-free.

3. Nobody - apart from Malcolm on Business Breakfast - having the balls to ask anyone remotely Arab about how the 70% payrise for civil servants will impact on Sheikh Mo's plans to Emiratise the private sector.

4. How come newspapers here can write stories on AIDS prevention without mentioning condoms or the word 'sex'.

Anonymous said...

How many people actually work at the CNN office in Dubai (on the TV side)? A disproportionate number compared to the size of the sign DMC put up thats for sure.

I think CNN sees that Abu Dhabi is where the 'serious' news is going to be soon.

I'm surprised the BBC doesn't have a decent presence yet.

Anonymous said...

Don't say that to Julia Wheeler! :)

Anonymous said...

F.Kane is off Biz 24/7

Anonymous said...

Frank Kane must be unable to believe his luck.
On the skids at the Observer after various grape-related incidents; then on a huge pile of dosh at ITP for setting up a paper that never launched; and then rinsing AMG for a big pile of salary.
He should be grateful for the innings he had. And no doubt he'll pop up somewhere else soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Why did Kane leave?

Anonymous said...

Just because he is not editing 24/7any more, what makes you think he has left AMG?

AJI insider J said...

What’s gone wrong at Al Jazeera English

Al Jazeera English a one billion dollar project financed by the Emir of Qatar and based in the small Arabian Peninsular, promised a fresh perspective on World news. The critics may have hailed the channel and complimented its unbiased reporting, but behind the scenes things have not been nearly so successful with morale at the station on the decline for the past year.

Al Jazeera English promised to give voices to the voiceless. Unfortunately for staff at the Doha base of AJE, The voiceless have turned out to be the very staff trying to produce the News.

In an extraordinary meeting held last Thursday a tired looking Nigel Parsons, Managing Director of Al Jazeera English, took questions from an angry group of over 100 from all levels of the company. Up to then, staff have had to keep their complaints to themselves unfortunately for Nigel Parsons he walked straight into a volley of extraordinarily upset staff who were not holding back with their venom.

What has happened at AJE? What led to Nigel walking into the verbal equivalent of a lynching ?

Delayed for over 18 months it began transmitting on Nov 1st 2006, but much like some of the new buildings in Doha, almost immediately cracks began to emerge. If one was to pinpoint the exact moment a nail was hammered into the heart of AJE it was perhaps in the 48 hours before launch, here a fateful decision was made, to change the name from Al Jazeera International to Al Jazeera English, a small change on the face of it but behind the scenes the change was more than just a name.

It was at this moment that AJE would no longer be a stand alone channel with all of it’s own in house services but would become part of the Al Jazeera Network, this Network includes sports, documentary and children’s channels. Overnight senior departmental managers and their staff became obsolete, managers of finance, programming, Personnel, Technology, Engineering and others suddenly found themselves answering to existing managers with their own staff. None survived 12 months.

Immediately the quality of service dropped, this came as no surprise to staff in Doha, and what was clear to staff seemed unexpected to the new managers, with no new staff existing teams of people used to dealing only with Arabic Al Jazeera now had over 400 new staff mainly from Western Europe to deal with. The departments most under stress were also the most important ones Personnel and Finance. This added workload resulted in long delays to family Visa’s, medical check ups (mandatory for expats in Qatar) and contract issuance. Now many people accepted the initial delays as part of doing business in the Gulf, a place where glacial is the term used to describe any business activity. Only the service didn’t get any better, and things deteriorated further.

The lack of a dedicated personnel department has meant chronic delays in hiring additional staff, this coupled with an unofficial ban on any staff being hired from Europe/Australia/N.Z. meant managers were forced to scrabble through C.V.s to find people fitting the new profile. Also managers were forced to obtain a clearance from the board of directors for all new members of staff, and if the board rejected your choice for a position you were forced to go back to square one.

In addition to this and almost unbelievably no one at AJE has been given a contract since June 2006, and the staff that were issued contracts were told shortly after they arrived that the promised benefits were not guaranteed.

It was shortly after June that the cuts began, two flights home became one, full medical benefits suddenly became subsidized only, and most controversially, rumors started flying that school fees would no longer be paid. A devastating blow to the many people who had brought their children to the Qatari desert. Many with large families now faced crippling costs of sky high school fees, forced up by an influx of expats that have flocked to the country in the last couple of years.

Families that only 18 months ago were preparing a for new life in the desert Kingdom now have to face the fact that they will have to return to their respective countries much sooner than planned.

Along with the immediate loss of benefits and the financial implications this has on staff a more fundamental problem exists at AJE.

Since the integration into the Network, AJE has found it’s self slowly being drawn into the archaic ways that the Arabic channel had always run on, thus in 2007 the channel was now being forced into working practices not seen in television since the 80’s. One of the fundamental problems was the idea of multi skilling, in a modern newsroom it’s unheard of for an individual to hold a single role, Journalists now edit packages, a director can vision mix a camera operator does sound, a sound-man does auto cue, etc. News is now based around the idea. The result of this and the modern technology involved in the new channel, is a staff level half that of it’s sister channel, but the wage bill is not half. A point of disagreement at the Arab channel. For an outsider it seems obvious that it’s better to pay a single Director/Vision Mixer 40,000 pound a year rather than pay a Director 40,000 and the Vision Mixer 40,000 to anyone the saving was clear, however, to the bosses at the Arabic station these were unheard of sums to be paid to an individual.
To this end all salaries offered to staff since June 2006 have been significantly lower than ones offered before that date. This has compounded the employment problems of managers who face having to hire staff on sometimes half the original wage of their colleagues.

The problem is that 40,000 pound for Vision Mixer/Director was already on the low side of industry scales and the same held true across AJE. Remember these roles are based in Doha Qatar, not central London. Contrary to Industry assumption the company were not handing out gold bars at the arrivals lounge, the wages have only ever been considered average, what made the wage acceptable to many was the overall package of benefits including housing, and the fact that due to Qatar’s huge oil wealth there is no income tax.

Now of course no tax may have attracted a few but talk to staff and the overriding feeling is that staff signed up to be part a historic channel launch. It is this that has kept the channel going despite the now chronic staff shortages and the gradual eroding of benefits.

Now though It seems that the staff have had enough, its not quite clear what the straw that broke the camels back actually was, schooling perhaps or the fact that in a country where inflation runs at 15% the company seems to have ruled out any pay rises, or it may have been the overwhelming feeling that despite many members of staff putting in over 70 hour weeks and not taking leave for over a year Al Jazeera doesn’t really seem to care.

It seems that the dedication of the staff thats produced the award winning programming no longer have any respect from the Al Jazeera Management, the feeling that “we are being used” was a popular sentiment of the meeting. Passions are running so high that when one member of staff suggested a 24 hour strike a ripple of “hear hears” filled the room.

And it seems that the voices and concerns raised in the past year have been falling on deaf ears, it transpired early in the meeting that Nigel Parsons the Managing Director, is not invited to Al Jazeera boardroom meetings. Instead he admitted to a stunned room that he gained his information through his secretary who talks to another secretary who sits in on the boardroom meetings. It would appear that even at the highest levels there seems to be a lack of respect.

And it didn’t not go unnoticed that when a Managing Director gets his information from his secretary there must be fundamental problems with the company structure.

And the result of the reduction in benefits, and a seemingly uncaring attitude from the Network, Over 13 resignations this week alone.

The MD is bracing for more as many people joined on 2 year contracts between Nov 2005 and June 2006. Al Jazeera could be facing a serious staffing crisis.

Clearly something has to give, with your staff threatening walkout, and resigning at an alarming rate it would appear that things will only get worse before they get better.

The question is though with a Managing Director seemingly cut out of any decision making processes how much worse will it get.

Will the channel become a one billion dollar white elephant before it celebrates it’s second birthday?

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff. And, totally unsurprising, every (government controlled) media entity that has ever launched in the GCC has suffered the same fate (or rather it's staff have suffered). Why does it happen? It happens because these organisations do not grow organically, throwing a billion dollars at a project may work if you're building a skyscraper, it does not work for newsgathering.

The new AUH paper can expect mass senior level resignations within the first 6 to 12 months from initial launch.
T'was ever thus.

Anonymous said...

Have just been reading about the complicity of Dubai authorities with the suspension of Geo TV station facilities. Geo are a network that broadcasts in Pakistan that is known for being anti-Musharraf. It has been based in Dubai to escape state censorship in Pakistan. When Musharraf recently established a state of emergency he suspended all media in Pakistan. The authorities in Dubai helped him out by also suspending Geo.
Now, I've seen all kinds of wittering crap on this blog but when you lot are faced with a real-life situation, that requires real-life intervention you don't even know it is happening. Pathetic. No wonder that your media is a joke - just look at the people who work in it.

Anonymous said...

There are probably plenty of journos here who are aware of the government's complicity with Musharraf and Geo but can't report on it because of ridiculous censorship here. It would indeed be a great day for the media here if Gulf News ran a front page headline: "Dubai government helps autocratic Pakistani leader in anti-democracy drive".

Ain't gonna happen...

Anonymous said...

AJI insider J said...
Thanks for the update.

I was offered a job a AJE a few months ago and thankfully I declined it. I knew someone who had been working there and they gave me the heads up. I bet the morale at AJE is quite similar to the old ITP machine in Dubai.

Anonymous said...

What? As opposed to the excellent morale currently going on at ITP?

Anonymous said...

I wanted to also add my thanks to the AJI Insider. I too had been looking at a job there and I feel now like I really dodged a bullet. It's sad, really. So much lost potential.

aji insider said...

I tried to write a piece that was as fair and balanced as I could.

Its fair to say the Journalists do have it the worse. The extreme staff shortages in the newsroom has led that area to have the worst morale in the station. There are numerous cases of staff not being able to take leave for pretty much all of 2007.

I hope the situation improves, the station needs more staff, but one cannot recommend the place right now until the situation improves.

Therefore Al Jazeera is now stuck in a catch 22, before everyones conditions improve they need more staff but until the conditions improve no one will join. The question is where is the breaking point.

Anonymous said...

Off topic for one second....

Check out the 7 Days online poll on their web site today.... (scroll to bottom of page)

And they wonder why nobody takes them seriously.

Anonymous said...

Excellent poll. As good as the time Gulf Snooze posed the pertinent question for our times: "Mixed race couples have better looking children. Agree or diagree?"

Anonymous said...

so what's the morale like at ITP? and what's the general view on Time Out Dubai and all their offerings?

Anonymous said...

Morale at ITP is probably about as good as morale at Motivate, described today as being like Vietnam at the end of the war with people standing on the roof hoping to be flown away in helicopters.

Anonymous said...

"Mixed race couples have better looking children. Agree or diagree?"

Did Gulf News really asked this question?
Hahahahahaaa...the press here is great, simply great.
I love this place, rofl!

Anonymous said...

Personally I think the morale at ITP is great. It's a company with great ambition, and strong growth plans for 2008. That makes it a great environment to work in.

Anonymous said...

Morale at ITP is great for certain people, generally those who are great at toeing the company line, palming off all the real work to underlings and kissing the right butts. They're the ones who'll reap the rewards of growth while others in there are overworked, underpaid and generally being treated like serfs. And yes, Gulf News really did ask that question in a website poll. Genius.

Anonymous said...

Gulf News has started to publish some gems recently, either by readers or by "journalists".

Firstly this sentence which is funny and inexplicably awkward at the same time

A couple of expatriates yesterday told Gulf News they have ordered (!!) relatives or friends currently holidaying in India to bring a dozen of coconuts from their hometowns.

Now a wonderful letter from a Ms. Rima; describing her as extremely paranoid would be an understatement...

Clean cyberspace
The UAE has created an atmosphere that excludes much that is undesirable. However, even with all the firewalls, I find that internet service in the new Dubai area offers full access to everything online. I know my friends and family in other emirates and in other parts of Dubai have effective protection. I request the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) to look into this matter.
From Ms Rima Murad

Anonymous said...

"Now a wonderful letter from a Ms. Rima; describing her as extremely paranoid would be an understatement..."

No, describing her as a fascist would be an understatement.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that most of the city's mags no longer have editors (Time Out, What's On, Communicate, Society Dubai, Concierge).

That's one way to save money I suppose... it certainly worked for 7 Days.

Anonymous said...

Am just about to move to Dubai and take up a senior position in a publishing company.... come from a freelance background writing for UK nationals and doing odd broadcast stuff... is Dubai going to be a massive and unpleasant shock??

Anonymous said...

here's a nice little secret.

ITP is opening up in Mumbai.

Maybe they'll outsource editorial to India?

Adam said...

For anonymous @ 07 January, 2008 12:17.

Austyn Allison is Communicate's new editor.

Anonymous said...

"08 January, 2008 12:51"

Not at all, not if you're independently wealthy, you'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

Austyn Allison's name is credited with another person as an associate editor in the latest issue.

Adam said...

Yes. Me.

The appointment wasn't made official until after the magazine went to press. But it's all above board now.