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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Fox’s cunning plans

In Advertising, Communicate, Digital, Interview, Journalism, Marketing, Media, Published journalism, Television on November 24, 2010 at 7:47 pm

David Haslingden, Fox International Channel’s president and CEO, tells Communicate about his network’s ambition for the region

Originally published in Communicate, May 2010

In March, broadcast company Fox International Channels (FIC) announced a tie-up with Abu Dhabi media hub twofour54 on three projects (see regional news, Communicate, April 2010). As well as moving operations for some of its locally targeted satellite channels from Hong Kong to the UAE, the News Corporation subsidiary is opening a Middle East headquarters for its online advertising business Dot Fox, and a branch of its NHNZ production house, both in twofour54.

President and CEO of FIC David Haslingden was in town for the recent Abu Dhabi Media Summit, and Communicate sat down with him to find out more about the new initiatives, FIC’s new-found love for the UAE capital, and the network’s wider plans for the region. Read the rest of this entry »

Engaging Egypt

In Communicate, Marketing, Media, Published journalism, Television on November 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Newspapers are gaining traction in Egypt, but Communicate finds that television is still number one for both the marketing industry and the audience

Originally covered in Communicate, April 2010

Dubai Press Club’s Middle East Media Outlook report cites Zenith Optimedia/Value Partners data saying that advertising spend in Egypt is focused on print, with 55 percent of the country’s advertising money going to newspapers. But those on the ground beg to differ. Read the rest of this entry »

Iran’s user generation

In Communicate, Journalism, Published journalism, Q&A, Television on November 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Former head of BBC Persian Rob Beynon tells Communicate that social networks may have been pivotal in the Iranian elections, but they don’t mean news is dead

Originally published in Communicate, February 2010

Rob Beynon is CEO of DMA Media, the consultancy firm that helped Abu Dhabi Media Company set up twofour54, its media hub. DMA was also involved in launching the BBC’s Arabic and Farsi television services, and in June 2009 Beynon was the acting head of BBC Persian as the Iranian election result sparked mass protests, rioting and outbreaks of violence.
Communicate sat down with Beynon to ask him about the role user-generated content played in the channel’s coverage of events. Read the rest of this entry »

Production values

In Communicate, Opinion, Published journalism, Television on November 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Abu Dhabi’s new studio complex doesn’t need to be No. 1 – as long as it works properly

Originally published in Communicate, November 2009

At the end of September, Abu Dhabi’s media hub twofour54 launched its production, post-production and broadcast facilities. Collectively, they are called intaj (that’s Arabic for “production”).

The new facilities are based around five studios, ranging from 60 square meters to just over 600 square meters. Giant doors (“You can literally get an elephant through those,” says a spokesman) lead to studios decked out for filming in high definition (HD), a technology tipped to become the industry’s new standard. Read the rest of this entry »

Production pragmatism

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Marketing, Published journalism, Television on November 23, 2010 at 10:34 am

It’s an unlikely deviation from the usual plot, but Dubai Studio City is trying to give the industry what it requires, rather than telling it what it wants

Originally published in Communicate, February 2008

During the Dubai International Film Festival in December, Dubai Studio City (DSC) announced full occupancy of its 18 boutique studios. The project’s aim of bringing production to Dubai, it seems, is being achieved.

Dr. Amina Al Rustamani, executive director of media at Tecom Investments, the parent company of Dubai’s free zones, says there are four main reasons to attract the film and production industry to the emirate: tourism, the economic benefits of having a big budget industry in town, “building the knowledge economy,” and the creation of jobs. Read the rest of this entry »

Cash for Tash

In Advertising, Communicate, Dubai, Published journalism, Television on November 22, 2010 at 11:15 pm

In the crowded Ramadan TV market, sponsorship can cut through the clutter

Originally published in Communicate, October 2007

As the barrage of 30-second spots battering Arab eyes builds up during Ramadan, canny advertisers are turning to sponsorship as a way to penetrate the barricade.

“The main arsenal of an advertiser remains a 30-second slot,” says Mazen Hayek, group director of marketing, PR and commercial at MBC, the Arab world’s leading broadcasting group. “Having said that, sponsorships are becoming increasingly important, and we have around 40 sponsors on our grid during Ramadan.”

Media agency Starcom Mediavest Group started Ramadan sponsorship with brands like Masterfoods’ Galaxy Jewels back in 2000. Buying packages that include TVCs, “brought to you” credits, mention in trailers, logo shots going in and out of breaks and more, Jewels has positioned itself as a seasonal staple and a standard gift to offer hospitable family, friends and neighbors.

“Ramadan is the month of giving, when you visit lots of people,” says Alex Saber, Starcom’s group commercial director in the region. “And when you visit people you have to take something with you.”

PLANNING AHEAD
Television viewership more than doubles during Ramadan. “And it’s a concentrated viewership,” says Saber. “At 6 p.m. you have to be at home, behind the dinner table, with the TV on, whether you’re watching it or not. … TV is part of the culture.” After breaking their fast, people rest and pray. Then the visiting begins. “After 10 p.m. people visit each other. And they keep eating and snacking with the TV on,” says Saber.

This year, while food and beverage brands are still hungry for airtime, telecom advertisers are also saturating screens, according to Saber. “STC [Saudi Telecom Company] has been sponsoring Tash ma Tash for the last two or three years,” he says, referring to MBC’s long-running smash-hit Ramadan comedy starring Abdullah Al Sadan and Nasser Al Qasbi. “And the way sponsorship agreements happen, next Ramadan STC will have the first right of refusal.” Tash ma Tash, which has been running for 15 years, always directly after iftar, commands in excess of 50 percent audience share.

Historically, Arab broadcasters have kept Ramadan programming under their hats until the last minute, releasing details of their shows as late as the week before. But last year, spurred by heavy competition in the pan-Arab market, major stations began releasing their synopses eight weeks earlier. This year, says Saber, information started coming out in late June.

Last year, Lebanon’s LBC tried to make a dent in MBC’s dominance, going head to head with a competing version of Tash ma Tash, made by the man who directed the show’s first series. LBC’s “original” Tash ma Tash flopped. “Ramadan last year was a first experience for us,” says Sana Iskandar, LBC’s media relations manager. “This year we were more prepared and we were able to release the grid to advertisers much sooner, several months in advance, as soon as we had decided on the programming.”

This year LBC is pinning its hopes on another fake ’tache: the one worn by a Saudi woman forced to impersonate a male taxi driver in the comedy Aamsha Bint Aamash. It might not come close to MBC’s ratings, but it offers a cheaper alternative for potential sponsors looking for an ally and a captive audience.

Nothing but static

In Communicate, Journalism, Published journalism, Television on November 22, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Mohamed Alayyan invested millions into ATV, Jordan’s first private TV station. Why, after years of delay, was it shut down on the very day of its planned launch?

Originally published in Communicate, October 2007

It was supposed to be a signal of the long-awaited liberalization of media in Jordan. But ATV isn’t broadcasting any Ramadan specials this year. In fact, as this magazine went to press two years after the station’s planned debut, ATV still hadn’t broadcast anything.

Jordan’s long-awaited first private TV station, ATV will miss regional broadcasting’s most profitable month due to a government shutdown on the day it was due to launch, sparked by wrangling over licensing, paperwork and debt.

Now Amman’s media scene is awash with rumors and speculation over the reasons for the delay and the fate of a station that was originally supposed to launch in late 2005.

The station’s frustrated owner, Mohamed Alayyan, says his losses are hurting him and he is ready to sell. “I cannot take this any more, this damage,” says Alayyan, a 33-year-old entrepreneur who broke ground by publishing Jordan’s first private daily, Al Ghad. “I am bleeding badly.”

EXCUSES, EXCUSES
Although he says rumors about the government buying ATV are unfounded, Alayyan says, “If I have a good buyer at a good price I will sell it definitely. … Right now several big investors have contacted me – I’d rather keep their names till the deal is done – and hopefully they will be able to launch it.”

Mohanned Khatib, managing director of ATV, is a former anchorman at Al Arabiya who was hired by Alayyan to head up the new station. After telling Communicate in 2006 that the station was expecting to launch “sometime around the end of the year” – last year, that is – Khatib says he is now dealing with bureaucrats who offer nothing but “excuses” when it comes to the station’s aborted launch.

“It was supposed to officially launch on Aug. 1,” says Khatib. “However, we were delayed by the Audio-Visual Commission [AVC], which regulates all TV and radio stations in Jordan. And we received several letters from them. Some excuses – I would say invalid excuses – but we have to abide by the rules.”

Speaking of the two-year delay, Khatib says, “Most of it started with the technical issues – licensing and frequencies and all that. But then it developed further, going into our content and other things,” adding that the regulator has begun demanding paperwork ATV had already submitted “several times.”

It’s enough to make one suspect that politics, and an official antipathy toward private broadcasters, are behind the delay. Alayyan refuses to be drawn into speculation about a political motive, but says the station’s novelty plays a part.

“I think [the problems] are because we are new, and this has never happened before,” he says. “But this is a huge step backwards for independent media.”

MONEY OWED
Hussain Banihani, general director of the government’s AVC, tells Communicate the regulator is blocking the satellite broadcast due to Alayyan’s unpaid debts.

ATV owes money to state-owned Jordan TV according to a deal whereby the new station was to take over frequencies and infrastructure for its terrestrial broadcast, and to another government body, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC), for the right to use those terrestrial frequencies. Yet the ATV terrestrial broadcast never got off the ground due to various technical issues.

“They have money to pay to Jordan TV and to the TRC here in Jordan for the frequencies and so on,” says Banihani. “Let them pay the money and they will be on air right now.”

Alayyan admits he has yet to hand over the money, which amounts to 3.5 million Jordanian dinars ($4.9 million), but says this should not be the concern of the AVC, which is supposed to regulate only the satellite broadcast. “Just because [the AVC] is the government doesn’t mean they have the right to collect [the money],” says Alayyan. “That’s a different contract. We are not disputing the issue of the terrestrial. There’re lots of technical issues with regard to the terrestrial that need ironing out.”
“We signed the contract with Jordan TV but never took the service,” he adds. “We never aired anything [and] they never took down their channel for us to use, and yet they started counting on us for money.”

In fact, Alayyan claims Jordan TV never paid for those terrestrial frequencies either, and he is hesitant about paying up in case ATV gets lumbered with Jordan TV’s existing debt. “When you buy a car, you don’t want to buy one with any debts, do you?” he asks.

MONEY THROWN AWAY
One thing is certain: ATV won’t be seeing much return on its investment in programming for Ramadan this year. For the peak season, Khatib says the station had invested around 2.5 million Jordanian dinars ($3.5 million) in content.

The absence from the airwaves during Ramadan has cost the company dearly. “We had prepared a very expensive grid especially for Ramadan. … The premiums for Ramadan are very high, and you can buy this stuff for maybe a quarter of the price after Ramadan. It was a major disaster for us,” says Khatib.

As well as looking forward to a new avenue for advertisers during the holy month, media buyers were anticipating the new lease of life ATV would give to Jordan’s stagnant television scene.

Media planners have long said a private local TV station would fill an important gap in the country’s media market, especially for local advertisers keen to reach a Jordanian audience without having to resort to pricey pan-Arab satellite broadcasters or print media.

“We were all eagerly waiting for ATV,” says Jöelle Jammal, managing director of ad agency Promoseven Jordan. “It will push Jordan TV to make some changes and some refurbishment to the whole operation,” she says, adding ATV’s proposed grid was a big change from the dominant state-owned broadcaster’s more staid slate of programs.

What could have been a breath of fresh air has brought an odor of disappointment to the noses of Jordan’s media. “I think the whole thing is unfortunate,” Khatib says. “I think it’s confusing to some, and I think it reflects badly on our country.”

Training day

In Communicate, Dubai, Journalism, Published journalism, Television on November 22, 2010 at 10:57 pm

As the region comes under more scrutiny from the world’s business media, specialists are coaching executives on facing the press

Originally published in Communicate, September 2007

Picture this: You’re the CEO of a large company and disaster strikes. Your business is in flames (perhaps literally), your stock is in freefall and the media is baying for blood – probably your blood.

You need someone who’s good in a crisis, who can single-handedly face the microphone-wielding jackals and save the day. The person you send out there needs to be a superhero of PR, the Jack Bauer of media managers. Alas, in many cases it’s you.

You’ve prepared for this moment. You’ve been trained as a press-pacifying ninja by catastrophe coaches and pandemonium professionals. You have, haven’t you?

Companies in the region are increasingly turning to media trainers to bring their executives up to scratch on how to handle the press both in times of crisis and during “peacetime.” With the eyes of the world on the Middle East – and when it comes to business news, Dubai especially – executives are more anxious about being ready to face the cameras.

Take the case of a March runway accident at Dubai International airport, in which passengers suffered minor injuries. “It made international news immediately,” says Caitlin West, managing consultant at UK-based crisis management specialist Regester Larkin, which recently opened an office in Dubai. Unexpected situations like this are precisely why companies need to be training their spokespeople.

YOU’RE BEING WATCHED
Media trainers come from a variety of different backgrounds. All promise to teach executives to better carry their companies’ key messages through good times and bad, and all agree that increased scrutiny on the region is good for business.

The backdrop for much of this uptick in demand for media training is last year’s Dubai Ports World debacle, according to Eithne Treanor, founder of Etreanor media consultancy. Like Regester Larkin, Etreanor recently set up shop in Dubai. “Some people I have talked to were amazed at the reaction in the US when all that happened, the fact that there were protests. … I think that’s why the people here are demanding media training,” Treanor says.

Although keeping one’s brand in the public eye is important, it’s the need to prepare for worst-case scenarios that drives many companies to seek external coaching.

Regester Larkin specializes in “issues and crisis management,” according to managing director Mike Regester. “If you wanted us to launch a new brand of butter in the Middle East, we wouldn’t do it,” he says. “We don’t do that stuff and other consultancies would be able to offer that. We’re absolutely focused on what we do.”

Chris Kinsville-Heyne, managing director of C3I Strategic Solutions, worked for the media wing of the British military before he went into media training. “I was primarily involved in getting the troops ready to face the media for Bosnia, the first Gulf War, Kosovo, East Timor, and the principle is exactly the same: you look at your key messages, you understand those, you understand how you can bridge from whatever question it is the media asks you to one of your key messages. The principle remains the same.”

This principle centers on anticipating rather than reacting to problems and turning questions to one’s advantage rather than trying to dodge awkward probes.

“I have a principle that is left over from Sandhurst [military academy],” says Kinsville-Heyne. “Train hard, fight easy. I train people for the hardest thing they can do, and in my experience that’s a live business breakfast interview. That’s the hardest thing you’re going to do. If you’re doing a print interview, it’s going to be easy in comparison.”

THE SOUND OF SILENCE
When the tough questions come, Kinsville-Heyne says “no comment” is not an option. “I’ve always maintained it with all my students,” he says. “If you ever turn round and say, ‘No comment,’ you might as well say, ‘Guess what, I’m ignorant – and stupid, too, because I’m missing an opportunity.’ You miss an opportunity to be able to engage in dialogue.”

Treanor says executives are often reluctant to admit they’ve gone through media training. “Media training in the corporate world is like going to your psychiatrist. You are a bit ashamed to say you have been to see him.”

Not Niall McLoughlin, regional head of corporate affairs at Standard Chartered Bank, who speaks openly about using media training. “Nowadays the potential for making an error, the potential for screwing up, is great,” he says. “If you’re better prepared to manage your reputation through effective communication rather than just shooting from the hip, then when you’re in a listed company it’s your responsibility to do that.” The bank uses Regester Larkin.

“People in this region still go on the defensive when they have no reason to go on the defensive,” says Treanor. “People are now realizing they need to be on the map. There is a bit of humility about people within publicly listed companies. They are beginning to realize that they have to get information to a lot more sources. But it is a big shift for the region.”

FOCUS POCUS
It’s important to go into an interview focused, says Standard Chartered’s McLoughlin. “In any one-on-one interview, you try to have your objectives of the interview, and the journalist has their objectives of the interview,” he says. “It’s trying to facilitate getting your messages across, what you want to deliver in the message. So you never go in there and let yourself be led. You try to articulate your messaging.”

The first eight seconds of the interview are crucial, says C3I’s Kinsville-Heyne. “People make up their minds about you very, very quickly. In three seconds people decide whether they like you or not; in five seconds they decide whether they trust you or not; in seven seconds they have decided whether you will lie to them or not. So essentially as a spokesperson you’ve got eight seconds. Being a good bloke and a good CEO doesn’t necessarily give you that skill.”

Choosing a media trainer can be tricky. Most PR companies offer coaching among their services, but Treanor, a former journalist, says those with a press background can do a better job, since they approach the issues from an outsider’s perspective.

Kinsville-Heyne takes the opposite approach. “I’m not a journalist and I always make sure I emphasize that. That’s probably one of my unique selling points. I’ve been a spokesman, I’ve sat in the chair that you’re going to sit in. I’ve done your job and I know exactly what it takes, how difficult it is to keep all those plates spinning.”

Whichever form of guidance you choose, there is one thing interview subjects should bear in mind, says Treanor: Journalists welcome people who are able to communicate well – but not too well. The trick is to be genuine, rather than slick. “There’s a danger that people can come across as too trained,” she says. “But that’s not what anyone in the media training business is trying to do. We’re not trying to show clients how not to deal with things or how to skirt around issues. We’re very much trying to show them how to engage, and by doing that, get their message across.”

So with the cameras aimed at you like snipers’ rifles, you might be calm, collected and ready for anything. You may think you really are the Jack Bauer of reputation management. But if you come across as a spin doctor, all that training could blow up in your face.

TIPS: You don’t say
Media trainers say there are simple rules to follow if you have to face the press. Make sure you don’t blow your 15 seconds of fame.

Prepare. Know the name of the journalist, the style of the program or publication, the interview format and the deadline. Know why the journalist wants the interview, and what angle the story will take.

Know your audience. Choose your words to suit it. Be valuable to the audience by stating your message clearly and with proof points.

Rehearse. Go over your key messages. Be enthusiastic about your company, service or product, but don’t try a blatant sales pitch.

Turn on your radar. Think of difficult questions and come up with responses ahead of time so you’re not caught off guard.

Don’t guess. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.

Don’t argue. But if the journalist makes factually incorrect statements, correct them.

For TV or radio, speak slowly and clearly. Don’t talk over people. Ignore background noise and distraction. On screen, don’t wear distracting clothes or jewelry, and keep your eyes steady.