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Tue 9 Mar 2010 05:28 PM

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Murdoch urges review of Arab media curbs

Newscorp founder and chairman says censorship is ultimately 'counterproductive'.

Murdoch urges review of Arab media curbs
MEDIA GIANT: Rupert Murdoch was delivering the keynote speech at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

Newscorp founder and chairman Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday called on the Arab world to review the practice of media censorship, saying it was ultimately "counterproductive".

Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, Murdoch said: "Human creativity flourishes in freedom."

The media mogul added: "Throughout my life I have endured my share of blistering newspaper attacks, unflattering television coverage, and books that grossly distort my views or businesses or both...

"I have learned this is the price one pays for success. For a nation the stakes are even higher. In the face an inconvenient story, it can be tempting to resort to censorship or civil or criminal laws to try to bury it... In the long run this is counterproductive. Markets that distort their media end up promoting the very panic and distrust they had hoped to control."

The UAE's drive to become a global media centre was an important undertaking, Murdoch said, but added the challenges were arduous.

"Right now the world does not think of the Middle East when it thinks of creative content. Even your own citizens often look elsewhere for a film or television show or news site.

"Many of your own citizens prefer Hollywood movies or American television shows to local production... Some people say you cannot build a a creative sector here. I do not believe that for a moment." he said.

He added: "Your citizens should be free to take full advantage of human creativcity wherever they find it... To make this talent bloom you need businesses willing to invest in creativity, to nurture talent, and to build audiences that will enjoy the fruits of this enterprise... A creative sector flourishes best in societies where governments intervene with a light hand."

Murdoch also called on Middle East countries looking to foster flourishing creative industries to be wary of indulging in protectionism, citing Japan as an example of a nation with a "protected, and limited, creative sector".

He said: "Sometimes nations seek to promote their pwn creative industries by limiting foreign participation and protecting local producers. Sometimes these restrictions do prevent us entering a market, or limit us to a tiny share... 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."

The News Corporation founder and chairman was delivering the keynote speech at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Media Summit. The three-day forum has gathered some of the industry’s leading figures for a mix of public sessions and closed door discussions.

Murdoch’s son, James, is scheduled to address the summit on Wednesday. Also speaking over the next 48 hours are Warner Bros president Alan Horn, AMD chief Dirk Meyer, AOL chairman Tim Armstrong, and Etisalat chairman Mohammed Omran.

Earlier this week News Corp said it would open a regional hub for its online advertising network, .Fox, in Abu Dhabi. It also plans to open a documentary production office in the UAE capital, and to move operations of some channels in the region to Abu Dhabi’s recently opened broadcasting facility.

The deals were struck by Fox International Channels, a News Corp subsidiary, with twofour54, an Abu Dhabi government-sponsored initiative focused on establishing the emirate as a centre for Arabic content creation. They follow News Corp’s $70m investment in Rotana, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud’s media group.

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RBH 10 years ago

Firstly, I totally agree that there needs to be a lot more media creativity in the Middle East, and that most people still resort to foreign media for news, entertainment shows, series, etc. But, I still believe that the scenario will not work as there is government intervension in everything, and this is the solid foundation of most Middle Eastern nations. Lastly, limiting foreign participation in the region is for the best of the region. If foreign participation takes place, then the local one will fail miserably. This is because that foreign companies and other industrial giants have better products/services and have a lot of experience in a competitive market, so they will outwin the local companies very easily. The best thing for the region is to have better research and development which will enable them to investigate the success of foreign companies and try their best to implement those success stories with their own firms. They should also for once, "think outside of the box," and should accept hiring more from the young generation who definitely have a lot of new ideas and methods that are at the same time creative but do not defy local government's rules and regulations.

Sally 10 years ago

I totally agree with RBH. Creativity has to come from within a culture, not imported. As long as Arab countries do not produce, they will be dependent on other cultures, thus losing their own. Young people have ideas and need to be encouraged. Media is a very powerful tool that needs to be in safe hands.