News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch had some words for Middle East: free up your media markets and international investors will come.
He spoke at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which gathers media leaders from around the world “to reflect the emergence of Abu Dhabi as a global media hub,” according to a statement from the organisers.
Murdoch told the crowd that unleashing state-controlled media companies and taking a “light-hand” to government-controlled markets, they can “diversify your economy, provide millions of jobs for a rising generation, and give the Arab people a global voice and influence commensurate with your importance.”
“While oil is undeniably vital to our world, the untapped creativity in this region represents a resource infinitely more precious,” he added. “Because it is rooted in the human mind, creativity is the one economic resource that is truly inexhaustible.”
Murdoch added that his own company has invested in Rotana. “To be frank, Rotana does not really need our financing,” he said. “We are partnering with Rotana for something more ambitious: To tap into Arab talent and ultimately produce original Arab content for markets both here and abroad.”
He explained other investments:
Yesterday we further extended our presence by announcing a strategic partnership between Fox International Channels and Abu Dhabi’s twofour54. First, we will move some of our satellite channels from Hong Kong to here. Second, we will establish a production office here for one of our documentary filmmaking companies. And third, we will headquarter the Middle Eastern operations for our global online advertising network business in Abu Dhabi as well.
I mention these partnerships only to emphasise that my words are backed up by my investments. With these new partnerships, we are sending a message. When we look to the future, News Corporation is betting on the creative potential of the more than 335 million people who make up the Arab world.
More from his speech, according to prepared statements sent to us in an email:
On electronic “playthings:”
The bright and shiny wonders that technology gives us can be like the desert sun – they can blind us to what is real and valuable. Amid the digital dazzle, we risk missing the magic: the creative content that brings these devices to life…Without creative content, these electronic devices are merely expensive playthings.
On the value of creativity:
A recent Arab Human Development Report suggests that this region must create 50 million new jobs in the next 10 years. A thriving creative industry would contribute many of these jobs – most of them environmentally friendly, well paying, and contributing to a better quality of life for all.
On advertising and closed markets:
A more transparent advertising market means having effective tools to measure who and what people are watching…A more transparent advertising market will also encourage media buyers and sellers to compete for business. By contrast, opaque markets tend to be unfairly dominated by one or two players. This can be a cozy arrangement for those players. But a nation pays a very high price for this cozy arrangement – because it takes away the financial engine needed to drive investment in local content.
On competition and protectionism:
Creative protectionism is as destructive as other types of protectionism. It is expensive … it is unfair … and it guarantees that local companies coddled by protection will never be strong enough to compete outside their own borders. By contrast, if you open your creative market up to competition, your companies can challenge the biggest players.
On “unwelcome” media stories and control:
With this increased global attention comes the occasional inconvenient or unwelcome story. Again, I speak from some personal experience. Throughout my life, I have endured my share of blistering newspaper attacks … unflattering television coverage … and books that grossly distort my views or my businesses or both…I have learned that this kind of coverage is a fact of life in a modern media society. I have learned too that it is the price one pays for success.
For a nation, the stakes are even higher. In face of an inconvenient story, it can be tempting to resort to censorship or civil or criminal laws to try to bury it…Markets that distort their media end up promoting the very panic and distrust that they had hoped to control.
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