A study (pdf) of the news media in 15 Arab countries shows some new signs of vigor and creativity in the Arab press, despite familiar financial constraints and structural changes affecting news organizations. Overall daily circulation and the number of news publications continue to rise.
“We are confident that the fundamentals of the media in our region are strong enough to not only withstand the storms of the times, but also to forge ahead, learning lessons from the past and making amends for things that went wrong,” wrote Mona al Marri, chairperson of the Dubai Press Club in the United Arab Emirates, which produced the new study.
“A majority of media stakeholders that we interviewed across the 15 countries covered in the report thought future prospects for the media in the region were positive in spite of the impact of the economic downturn,” said Maryam bin Fahad, executive director of the Press Club. “We also noticed a growing preference for local Arabic content in countries that produce local content such as Egypt and Lebanon, indicating further maturation of the media industry and media consumers away from generalized regional or global media content.”
“The newspaper industry in the Arab Region is currently an unsaturated market in the majority of countries,” according to the study. “The concentration of newspapers in the region relative to its population remains low compared to Western Europe, North America and even Eastern Europe.”
“Bahrain has, by far, the highest concentration of newspaper titles by population in the region,” followed by Qatar and Kuwait. Other countries, “including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, could benefit from an increase in newspapers.” Varying levels of press freedom and legal protection for the press are noted in passing.
“Arab Media Outlook 2009-2013: Inspiring Local Content,” was released last month and is posted with the permission of the Dubai Press Club.