Saturday, 17 May 2008

Turning the TV back on

We've been a bit overkill on the National, so back to TV. Scroll down this article: Bridging The Gulf.

The attempt to fuse Western talent and values with Arab control have not always been smooth in the media business. Al-Jazeera, the original beacon of a popular, autonomous media, owned by the Emir of Qatar, has faced serious challenges in the period since it launched its English-language rolling news channel. Its first year was dogged by clashes over terms and conditions. Jo Burgin, a former senior executive, is seeking £1 million in compensation, claiming that she was dismissed because she is a “white, Christian woman”.

Yesterday al-Jazeera English brought in Tony Burman as managing director, who had previously run CBC News in Canada, in an attempt to heal some of the rifts created under the previous regime. Nigel Parsons, the former managing director, was pushed upstairs to a role running “business acquisition and development”. For all the problems, al-Jazeera's output remains of high quality and there are no allegations of overt interference.

Nevertheless, with Gulf states pouring cash into media, outsiders believe that they have something to contribute. That thinking underlies the decision by the BBC World Service to launch an Arabic channel, because the BBC believes that it is able to offer an independent voice. But, whereas it might have had to battle before with censorship, now it has to battle with vibrant rivals for audience - a sign that a market for media is developing.

Have we got any Al Jazeerans reading who can give their perspective on the "rifts"? Enough ex-Dubai media are now working there. And anyone been hired from BBC Arabic? There used to be some ex-BBC Arabic staff working at MBC, are they planning to return?

16 comments:

mediamonster said...

FAO deleted anons: If you want to talk about some blogger, go and talk about them on their blog.

Here we respect people's anonymity. Whether they are a blogger, or a moonlighter, or whoever or whatever they are. The reason we do this is because we respect our own anonymity: we also delete posts (most anyway) on people speculating who we are.

There are a load of UAE journalists that blog including some of us, we don't out any of them.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know what they were saying?

Anonymous said...

Stuff about Secret Dubai not living in Dubai any more.

But apparently talking about one of the most visited and talked about blogs in the UAE misleading its readers isn't relevant to DMO because they're just "some blogger".

Anonymous said...

Why don't you delete posts when actual names are used? A previous post was speculating on people who had formed some new media company and I know for a fact some of the names were not connected in any way. Once the names were mentioned, various insults - useless, stupid, physically imperfect - were offered up and apparently with the mediator's blessing. If you're going to protect anonymity might as well delete the personal attacks while you're at it.

Too bad for Secret Dubai. Her identity isn't that anonymous anyway.

meeja tramp said...

anon @ 11.34 : if there were people mistakenly named by an anon comment, then that's a shame and we would have put up a correction if anybody had bothered to put the record straight. You can still comment on that post as well.

Anonymous said...

Why has moderation been turned on?
There's been some massively libellous stuff about individuals in the past, which never got stopped. At least the criticism of Secret Dubai sounds like it was true.
Jeez, you guys really look after your mates...

mediamonster said...

You can slag off all you want, just no outing. Comment mod is on because of some twazzock (not even in the UAE judging by their IP address) that keeps posting names.

For the record we have had to delete libellous comments in the past about named UAE journos. There's always the risk that someone will post The Great Unprovable Well Known Rumour about a particular extremely prominent media entity, so far no one has thank god. His lawyers are probably far faster than our delete key.

Anonymous said...

what's the big deal about Secret Dubai anyway? Yes, it was new and interesting and controversial a couple of years ago, but now? Blogs are two a penny, and the site's pretty lame these days.

Anonymous said...

i cant see a way to start a blog so i'll put this in here as its TV - i am sure someone will shift it if its interesting enough.

TV advertising. first there was the Lacnor ad in which the young girl cuddles the juice carton like it was mammy and now there's one in which a mother struggling to comfort her baby finds the only way to do it is to put her KFC grease covered finger into the tot's mouth.

who approves this crap and is anyone else bothered by it?

Anonymous said...

Aljazeera English is a flop. The website is a bigger flop. Just google and read all these articles about Aljazeera English.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/jan/30/tvnews.television
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/mar/26/television1
http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5735.shtml
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2003/nov/17/newmedia.Iraqandthemedia
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/mar/06/television?gusrc=rss&feed=media

It's boring to watch and nothing like the Arabic version.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to put one out there too. I'm based in the UK, but visit Dubai regularly and do a fair bit of freelance writing out here. And I have never (in 17 years as a journalist) had to put up with the crap that I am getting from C*I Publishing. They owe me a relatively small amount, and it's not going to break the bank to pay me. They (the editorial director) have told me they are happy with the work done. But the accounts department/management are absolutely clueless. I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked to re-supply 'lost' invoices, remind them which magazine/issue my work appeared in and and and. I've been told the cheque is in the post, then that it was never signed, that the should be in my account, and that they don't pay directly into bank accounts. All within the space of two weeks!
On my latest call, I was given the mobile number of the supposed owner of the company - and I've never encountered such a b*llshitting idiot. He told me that he'd personally sort it - then told me I should be "looking at the bigger picture" and set up some sort of "freelance army as a profit centre" for him! As if I'd recommend fellow freelancers to a company that doesn't pay up and doesn't seem to know its arse from its elbow!
In short, I'd be interested to know if this is the norm from C*I. I've not had any such problems with TMF, ITP or Motivate.

axis of said...

Quite naturally, the English version can never be like the Arabic version, no matter how hard they try.

Presumably the people running the English version have ebeen educated in English, hence the failure. Simply put, the Arabic version tells them (the audience) what they want to hear. Hey, presto! Success.

You, sir, and people like you, are good. Everyone else, and people unlike you, are bad. Your point of view, and all of us share the same, is perfect. Those not in agreement with us are simply wrong, have an axe to grind, or are inspired by ulterior motives.

We people can never be wrong. Have you ever heard us say we're sorry? I mean, how could we? We'd have to be wrong, or have said or done something wrong, in order to be able to say that. Tch, tch.

How can the English version ever keep up?

Some of you must have heard of the notorious criminal/sanadalwood smuggler/elephant poacher Veerappan, who evaded Police from 3 states in the South of India while operating from his jungle hideout. For 20 years he terrorised the area, and the Police, yet could never be caught. He managed to ambush every top-secret police raid against him for two decades. He brutally tortuted to death every Policeman he caught (boiling them to death in a large pot, for example). No one could even get anywhere near him. (He was finally shot dead in a Police ambush, the only successful one against him.)

Now why am I saying all this and what is the relevance here? Let me tell you.

Though no one could get anywhere near the magically elusive Veerappan, there was one person who could. He could walk into the forest any time, meet Veerappan, and come back with interviews, pictures, and mostly with terrifying messages for the Police. He did it all the time. He was like the official messenger from Veerappan to the Law and Order authorities of the surrounding states, especially Tamil Nadu.

Who was he?

He was the editor of the weekly magazine Nakeeran.

We had something similar in this region. A mouthpiece, yes sir, you are getting my point. Full access at any time. We must protect our sources after all, a fine journalistic tradition. Every time there's a message to deliver, we're at your service. We will do it. We walk in and out at our pleasure and we provide the means to disseminate the message. Don't like what I'm saying? Yes, then I'm obviously wrong. After all, it isn't what you want to hear, so I'm definitely wrong. I must tell you what you want to hear--that, sir, is successful journalism. Let's all get used to it and say it is a good thing.

Some things fall by the wayside, never to be brought to mind...sorry, then, but...

...whatever happened to that case? Did Al Jazeera win it? Did CNN cough up the expected millions, or billions?

I'm talking about the videotape, people. Yes, the one years ago, in which Bin Laden apparently said it's OK for innocent people to die as long as it furthers your noble goals.

Now Al J and CNN had this agreement, see, to share news items. And CNN kept asking for the tape. What tape, fellows? The one in which Bin Laden says it's OK (etc.). But friends, there is no such tape; he never said such a thing. Look guys, stop fooling around--we know he did, and we know you have the tape; now give it to us, just like our agreement says, we want to broadcast it. No, gentlemen, you are hallucinating, Bin Laden never said (we know he never would, the noble soul) such a thing, and we assure you, no such tape exists. Come on, quit kidding us. No really, it doesn't exist.

Then CNN broadcasts the video.

What?! Hell breaks loose. Where did you get that! CNN stole our tape! Daylight robbery! That was ours! They stole it! We are gonna sue! Oh, CNN is gonna pay, oh, are they gonna pay! How dare they steal our tape. We're filing a suit now. I mean now!

Somewhat paraphresed, I agree, but more or less that's the way KT and others told us the story. So who won? Did CNN pay? How did CNN get hold of a non-existant tape? Is it possible to steal something that doesn't exist? All these questions were meant to be answered in the court case.

Unfortunately nothing further was reported. We never got to know. Any Al Jazeera folks out there? Perhaps you can fill us in? Was the case filed at all, or was there no case?

Or did this just fall by the wayside, never to be remembered (hopefully)?

Sop what happens when a journalistic institution is caught with it's pants down? Telling lies, people. Yes telling lies--first it doesn't exist, then you stole our property! Wow! Shall we rely on them to bring us news? Oh, I forgot: they tell us what we want to hear. So they've got credibility. Yes, sir, they do.

And of course, there's the other question. Is it the responsibility of a media instituion to protect the reputation of a terrorist (or anyone else) by withholding from broadcast something foolish he may have said? (No, no, that won't go down well. It's not good PR for him; don't broadcast it. Better still, hide the tape and tell everyone it doesn't exist.)

Oh, did I say terrorist? Sorry, wrong word...freedom fighter.

Anonymous said...

I love DMO - it really reminds me of my thankfully very short time in Dubai. It is a funny read and epitomises the place. Keep up the good work everyone!

Anonymous said...

to anon at 12:40

What you have described in your post is so typical of CPI. You definitely did get to speak to the owner of the company who will always talk about the 'bigger picture' and show you money where it really isn't.

Your best bet is to keep pestering the accounts department until they pay you. Maybe you could enlist the help of the 'editorial director'.

I imagine leaving messages around on forums such as DMO would also help other freelancers.

Best of luck

Anonymous said...

While I'm kind of glad I'm not the only freelancer who has trouble with Crap Publishing International, I don't envy others suffering from the same misfortune. They have a few decent enough members of staff there but, in my experience, the problems start at the top.
The first person I met there was Mad Dominic. He actually approached me to contribute to their titles anonymously (as I work for a rival company) and chased me. Foolishly enough, I did some work for them (bad karma, I guess) and have ever since then been chasing payment.
I can't kick up too much of a fuss, due to my situation. But I have spoken to 'MD' since and, every time, he tries to convince me of the 'bigger picture' and how I should come and work for him, as per anon above.
In retrospect, I'm happy that the work I did was 'undercover' as - having seen the layout and treatment of it - their titles aren't something I'd wish to be associated with. Live and learn and all that!
Have also, in the past, written for The Media Factory and, I have to say, they were as good as gold regarding payment - as, indeed, are my company.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and further to my above post, I wouldn't bother with the editorial director either (if it's Dave you are referring to) as he's just as loony as Mad Dominic.
I honestly cannot fathom how that publishing house has been going for so long. Crap titles, crap leadership, Crap Publishing International.