Interview: Khalid Omar Al Midfa
What types of private investments are being targeted in the media sector?
KHALID OMAR AL MIDFA: Most of the new opportunities in the sector will be chiefly driven by platform thinking. This means that investments in technology, content and talent will be vital to future growth. We are therefore seeking companies that can enable the creation of a media platform and ecosystem.
We have identified three main investment categories that foreigners can use to enter the market. These are content creation and distribution, such as radio, television, film and print; talent development, such as education and training; and platform and technology development, such as in apps, operating systems, shared facilities, and events creation and management. Furthermore, building Sharjah Media City Free Zone means that there is also a need for physical real estate investments in commercial, creative, residential and retail spaces.
How are digitalisation and the appearance of new technology reshaping the sector?
AL MIDFA: The founding goal of Sharjah Media City was to serve the current and future media community in Sharjah, the UAE and the broader region by developing three core supporting pillars – content, technology and talent. The first pillar is important because creative talent will always continue to be at the centre of the media sector, and can take many forms such as writing, directing, presenting and performing, or technical skills like videography, and sound and video editing. The continued development of all of these areas is helping to build and enrich content. Moreover, these areas are very accessible as you do not need to have extensive education or training, an expensive setup, or years of experience to successfully participate in the sector.
With regard to content, stories are a traditional form of transmitting information, imparting wisdom and entertaining an audience; and news, lectures and movies will continue to inform, educate and entertain into the future. However, what has newly appeared is the significance of technology and its effect on content, which has become much shorter and available on demand. This includes newsfeeds, e-books, online newspapers and learning, and social media platforms. Technology is where the biggest transformation will take place and is poised to have the most significant effect.
Radio, TV and newspapers are the technologies being used to transmit content, and today’s media consumption is being transformed through three key drivers digitisation: replication and reach, and mobility. Digitisation and mobile-accessible internet has allowed news stories to be consumed and quickly disseminated around the globe. This also means we can replicate them multiple times and reach a globally connected audience. Consumption patterns have moved from paper to e-readers, from radio to digital audio devices, and from actual TV sets to tablets or laptops. The portable mobile device each person carries with them has become an integral part of everyday life and, as such, is becoming the means by which we consume all media.
In what ways is technology being used to attract foreign companies to the emirate?
AL MIDFA: We are living in a digital age and this is a major advantage with regard to licensing and regulation. What we are aiming to do is serve the region across different time zones, and to enable this, all processes and services are being created and deployed digitally. Services should be available at all hours of the day, everyday. If a customer requires service at 3.00pm or 3.00am, this should be provided. Through encouraging technology and digitalisation, it is becoming much easier for companies to operate and produce within the emirate.
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