Media and Arts
Dubai art fair upbeat despite city's debt woes
Dubai's annual art fair hit new highs in both sales and volumes despite concerns in the Gulf's trading and tourism hub over a debt crisis. The four-day contemporary art show drew more than 18,000 visitors, up 28 per cent from last year, and featured more varied galleries and artwork. "Everybody's talking about doom and gloom in Dubai ... but we've sold almost everything," said Raman Frey, of New York-based gallery Frey Norris . Dubai World, the government-owned conglomerate behind the emirate's iconic palm shaped man-made islands, is expected to present soon a plan to creditors to refinance US$26 billion in debt. The fair featured pieces by world-famous contemporary artists and a wider geographical mix than earlier years, with 31 countries represented. Some galleries, such as Saudi Arabia's Athr Gallery and Berlin's Galerie Christian Hosp, said they sold 90 per cent of their works. "Generally less people are buying globally, but here you still have a lot of interest from royal families and collectors," said Joan Lee, head of Seoul-based SUN gallery. "It's much better than expected." Tessa De Caters of Dubai-based gallery Isabelle Van Den Eynde, said interest in Middle Eastern art from international buyers has increased, while the local community of collectors is growing rapidly. Dubai, one of seven members of the United Arab Emirates, is a cosmopolitan city with fairly relaxed rules, but nudity and sexuality in art are taboo under its Islam-based moral code. "The fair still has a long way to go, but it's very young and has become internationally recognized," said De Caters. "Other fairs aren't seeing such growth." Art Dubai is mainly a staging ground for emerging artists but the four-year fair is coming into its own in the global arena, said Fabio Rossi of London's Rossi & Rossi.
Qatar advertising sector registers 12 per cent growth
Qatar remains high in advertising spending, which grew 12 per cent last year, bringing the total to US$402 million. The growth of the public relations industry has also been exceptional here. In 2009, it grew nearly 25 per cent despite Qatar maintaining its fourth position in the GCC region for most advertising expenditure. The Dubai-based O2 Network said in a statement yesterday it is setting up a new regional office here. The statement said as Qatar marketing industries are set for a boost this year as the country's economy is expected to grow by 17 per cent in 2010. In line with its aims to leverage the growth of such industries, O2 Network -- a conglomerate of O2 Marketing Communications, O2 Public Relations (O2PR), O2 Interactive (O2i), O2 Branding (O2B) and the To Know research agency--has announced the opening of a new regional office in Doha. The move reflects the company's expanding presence in the country as recent contracts with Qatar Energy City and Maya La Chocolaterie being secured, amongst others. According to Mohammed Johmani, Founder of O2 Network, the goal of the expansion is to strengthen an industry, which is witnessing significant development yet lacks creative diversity.
Murdoch urges more transparency in Arab media
Rupert Murdoch urged Arab governments to reject media censorship and open their markets to foreign competition as he opened a high-profile conference aimed at furthering oil-rich Abu Dhabi's ambitions as a cultural hub. The chief executive of News Corp, one of the biggest foreign investors in the region's media, called for lighter regulation and said economic incentives were more effective than protectionism. "In the face of an inconvenient story it can be tempting to resort to censorship or civil or criminal laws to try to bury it," he said in the opening keynote speech at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit. "Markets that distort their media end up promoting the very panic and distrust that they had hoped to control," he said. In November the Times, a News Corp newspaper, was removed from newsstands across the United Arab Emirates for a few days after it published a double-page spread showing a graphic of Dubai's ruler sinking under a sea of debt. Earlier that month a lack of transparency about the scale of Dubai's debt problems had increased panic in markets around the world after government conglomerate Dubai World requested a standstill of repayments for US$26 billion in debt. Dubai and Abu Dhabi, both part of the United Arab Emirates, have created free zones for media and other industries, which allow foreign companies to repatriate all of their profits and to operate without a local partner. The UAE is also revising its media law but the latest draft still calls for fines of up to AED5 million (US$1.36 million) for criticizing the head of state or rulers, publishing misleading news that could harm the economy, or material insulting the traditions and values of the UAE. Murdoch told his audience, including royalty and media executives, of News Corp's large investments in the region -- in contrast to rivals who have been put off by piracy, censorship and lack of audience metrics despite a high growth potential. "I'm sure there's no shortage of experts who fly in here and give you nice words," he said. "For our company, this is more than talk. We've been here for some time. And we are expanding our presence at a moment when others are paring back." News Corp last month agreed to buy 9 per cent of Saudi-based media group Rotana for US$70 million with an option to double that stake, and said it would move some of its Fox International Channels operations to Abu Dhabi.
Fox unit to open regional HQ in Abu Dhabi
Fox International Channels ('FIC'), a wholly owned subsidiary of News Corporation, announced that it has formed a strategic partnership with Abu Dhabi's twofour54 across three significant projects. The move highlights FIC's commitment to Abu Dhabi as well as reinforcing twofour54's commitment to position Abu Dhabi as a regional centre of excellence in content creation. The three collaboration projects are as follows: FIC is headquartering the Middle East operations of its global online ad network business, .FOX, in Abu Dhabi in co-operation with twofour54. With its global footprint, .FOX is already the 2nd largest online media provider in the United Arab Emirates and the 3rd largest in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. From the new regional headquarters in Abu Dhabi, .FOX will look to rapidly enter into representation agreements with local sites in the region to further expand the reach and relevance of its network. In addition, .FOX will build a sales organization focused on selling local and global online solutions to clients across the region. Secondly, FIC (through its documentary production arm NHNZ) and twofour54 are also collaborating on the production of a high end HD and 3D documentary, which will be available for broadcast television, cinema and museums. NHNZ will set up a production office in Abu Dhabi, from where it will manage Middle East specific productions, with an emphasis on building up the 3D production capabilities and expertise. Lastly, FIC and twofour54 have reached an agreement whereby FIC will move the playout and operations of some of its channels available in the Middle East from Hong Kong and other locations to a new centralized facility in Abu Dhabi operated by twofour54. These facilities are fully HD capable, based on tapeless workflows and represent the current state of the art in channel operations.