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RIYADH: The third Saudi Media Forum kicked off its agenda on Tuesday with panels, workshops and masterclasses in Riyadh under the theme “Media in a World Taking Shape.”

The two-day forum, organized by the Saudi Broadcasting Authority in collaboration with the Saudi Journalists Association, has become the Middle East’s cornerstone event for media gatherings and discussion, bringing together some 2,000 industry specialists and experts from the region and beyond.

“What Saudi is witnessing now is a moment of realization of the reality of its valuable capabilities, investing and refining them for the future,” said SBA CEO Mohammed Al-Harthi.

“Saudis are halfway towards Vision 2030, already reaping its results, and this leaves them with more confidence to achieve large aspirations.

“Media is part of this acceleration and development within the Kingdom’s regulations and legislations.

“Global entities are gravitating towards Riyadh as their base, as it has become a new hub for media industries.”

Its accompanying exhibition FOMEX opened its doors to visitors on Monday, showcasing the latest technologies and innovations from over 200 local and international companies throughout the forum’s duration.

At the SMF’s opening ceremony, Saudi Media Minister Salman Al-Dosari highlighted the Kingdom’s three new media strategies.

The Media Sector Strategy looks to shape a comprehensive media system in the Kingdom while improving governance and efficiency in collaboration with 30 government entities as well as the private and third sectors.

The Saudi Broadcasting Authority Strategy aims to enable the authority to overcome digital challenges, train talent and create world-class content.

The Saudi Press Agency Strategy aims to up its online, office and correspondent activity worldwide while presenting journalistic content that aligns with modern standard practice.

Al-Dosari announced the launch of the Saudi Academy for Media to empower and train professionals in new and developing skills and technologies. He also announced partnerships with tech giants including Google, Huawei and Alibaba.

A session titled “Gaza in the Media: Between Misrepresentation and Bias” analyzed the discrepancy between global coverage, Western media’s partiality toward Israel, and inaccuracies in portraying the conflict.

In a session titled “Media in the Past and Present,” Waleed bin Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim, founder and chairman of media giant MBC, said: “Enablement comes from both private and public sectors through investment and so on. At MBC, we’re lacking creatives and talents in all spaces, so all the doors are open.”

Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas took to the stage alongside fellow experts to discuss the role of journalism during times of global crises.

Meanwhile, Okaz Editor-in-Chief Jameel Al-Theyabi gave a workshop on the future of the print press.

A special masterclass by Dick Roberts, an executive vice president at Allen Media Group, gave insights into the entertainment industry.

Another session explored tourism as a global media language while Darryl Von Daniken, director of the International Radio Festival, discussed radio’s influence on consumers and prioritizing quality over quantity.

Prince Fahd bin Mansour, representative of Saudi Arabia in the G20-Startup20 engagement group, gave a workshop on generative artificial intelligence in media.

Joyce Baz, Google’s head of PR and communications in the Middle East and North Africa, discussed AI in a panel on the future of the media.

Saudi Arabia has launched multiple initiatives to grow the media sector across the region, including the Media Zone project that provides a dedicated space to gain knowledge of media arts.

Last week, the Kingdom launched the Hajj and Umrah Mediathon to improve the quality of coverage of the holy practices.

The Hajj Media Hub was also announced, allowing media professionals to enhance their coverage and showcase their work in an immersive exhibition.

The media sector’s contribution to Saudi gross domestic product reached SR14.5 billion ($3.86 billion) in 2023, and is targeting SR16 billion this year.

Last year, there was a record 56,000 jobs in the media in the Kingdom, which is expected to exceed 67,000 this year.

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