Interview: Adel Al Toraifi
What kind of knock-on effects will growth of the media sector have on the economy?
ADEL AL TORAIFI: We believe that the development of a sophisticated media sector will have a positive effect on a number of affiliated areas. One key area is the entertainment sector, which the government, as part of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Programme (NTP), places great importance on. Currently, most of TV shows and movies which target the Saudi market are produced abroad. Increasing the portion of locally produced content is set to greatly benefit the entertainment industry. The growing local presence of artists and technicians facilitating the creation of concerts and music festivals will also assist in boosting our entertainment expenditure. The establishment of the media and production city will help attract key global and regional firms to the Kingdom.
How does the ministry plan to achieve its target of increasing the media industry’s GDP from SR5.2bn ($1.4bn) to SR6.6bn ($1.8bn) by 2020?
AL TORAIFI: One of the main initiatives towards this goal is the establishment of the media and production city, as it will provide the necessary soft and hard infrastructure for the sector to attract investment. The city will aim to support the production of media content locally and ultimately boost the sector’s GDP.
While this is a challenging task, the talent pool in Saudi Arabia has yet to be properly tapped into. The majority of our talents either decide to work abroad or find it difficult to maintain and scale up their successful content production businesses. They mostly disseminate their work on social media platforms and video streaming websites. The Ministry will therefore establish a fund to provide the necessary capital for small and medium-sized media firms to grow and produce high-quality content in Saudi Arabia. In addition, the General Commission for Audiovisual Media has a newly drafted regulation that will foster investment in the industry. We are regulating the paid TV market in a manner that will improve customer experience while encouraging investment.
What programmes are being put in place to improve qualifications for media jobs?
AL TORAIFI: Currently we have two main initiatives to do this. The first initiative is a scholarship programme enabling fresh graduates to acquire the required skills in the media industry, especially technical skills, at institutions abroad. We expect this programme to assist them in filling the skills gap in key areas. However, the majority of job seekers will benefit from the establishment of a technical academy in the media and production city that specialises in providing the qualifications and skills most needed by the market. The academy will seek to offer – in addition to its degree-granting programmes – short-term courses aiming to re-train current professionals in new roles or bolster their skills. We are also exploring possible cooperation with other colleges in the US and Europe create technical programmes and short-term courses specifically aimed at the media industry.
How is the government linking digital and social media to its communications with citizens?
AL TORAIFI: Saudi Arabia is a leading regional contributor and consumer of digital and social media. It has one of the highest percentages of social media consumption in the world, especially among the youth population. Therefore, for us to achieve our NTP target of reaching 55% of the Kingdom’s citizens with government messages, utilising social and digital media is paramount. We already have Saudi Press Agency accounts on social media platforms such as Twitter and in several languages; we now intend to expand this presence to reach other platforms and languages to deliver a positive and a realistic image of the Kingdom and the great traditions of its people.
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