t the second Saudi Broadcasting Forum, held this week in Riyadh, Abdul Hannan Tago spoke on behalf of Arab News on the role of the media in promoting the culture of entrepreneurship among young Saudis, so that they could bring about a qualitative change in the content of the news channels, besides strengthening their presence in the television sector.
The emerging competition between conventional media and new social media is a global phenomenon and not confined to any particular country.
News channels need to now exert more effort to keep pace with rapid technological developments to meet the challenges the new media pose. “We should learn from the experience of young Saudis who use social media to formulate a strategy geared to the needs of the Saudi youth,” Tago said.
This is necessary, he said, if the news media want to retain their young audience, which comprises 70 percent of Saudi society. News channels should include in their programs material that is directly relevant and appealing to aspiring Saudis. This calls for a new format, covering all aspects of socioeconomic life.
Traditional media coverage in the Kingdom historically has been characterized by a balanced and moderate approach, with a strong focus on moral values dating back to the beginning of Islam. In journalistic parlance, we could say that the first media man emerged in the person of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who conveyed news that benefited the people not only in this world, but also in the hereafter.
The Saudi government and local media have adopted the same approach in the interest of society as a whole to unify their ranks, eliminate the root cause of disunity and other factors that might compromise the security of the state, mar relations with the public, offend human dignity, or curtail human rights. The Saudi media have always played a constructive role in disseminating information, strengthening people’s loyalty to the state and stability in the society through Islam, the unifying force.
Since Saudi Arabia is different from other countries because of its religious status in the Arab and Muslim world, the media should remain committed to the principles of objectivity and clean ethics.
The Saudi media are following this approach in their coverage of social, economic or political issues, by keeping away from exaggeration or sensationalism and, at the same time, highlighting the country’s achievements of interest to its citizens, who are the ultimate beneficiaries. This has enabled the media to retain its position, and through these principles various local media have benefited financially and in other ways by providing employment opportunities to young Saudis.
Every audience in each country has its own media landscape according to the culture in their country of origin. Their programs may not suit another place or might not fit with the taste of other people.
“To measure media success in a country, we measure the extent of peace, security and stability,” Tago said.
Media that publicize virtual news and present facts with objectivity contribute to the economy and development, uphold the morality, and respect the taste of readers.
The success of a publication should not be measured by economic output and popularity, as claimed by many media companies in countries that are greatly affected by social problems, including high rates of unemployment, incidence of crime, instability, poverty, and disease.
Some media establishments in these countries work to undermine the state’s efforts in the process of reform and development by highlighting a very narrow area of achievement of the state.
Those responsible for this type of media remain indifferent to the news that matters to their readers or viewers, believing that exposing problems and sensation is enough to gain popularity and readership, speed up its circulation and attract more advertisers.
Some countries that give their media absolute freedom actually have many problems. The demonstrations that we see now in some Muslim countries because of the anti-Islam film are the best proof of that.
This type of media does not help the state in bringing about change and development and does not take into account the public interest, morality or taste.
With regard to the youth, Tago said, we need to publicize youth activities that interest them and meet their cultural and intellectual aspirations.
“We should identify talented youth among those who appear on their own social networks, especially those who are now producing their own programs and get millions of followers in their own age groups.
“In Saudi Arabia, we have Olympiad competitions in science and mathematics. The winners are accepted at King Fahd University of Petroleum in Dhahran,” he added.
There are also achievements of Saudi inventors and innovators in various scientific disciplines at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology. The media should cooperate with the city and broadcast these activities.
There are many achievements of young Saudis locally and internationally. These must be highlighted, since they are of interest to them. For example, Prince Bandar bin Khalid bin Fahd is the first Saudi to climb seven summits and the highest peak on all seven continents, after his successful scaling of Mount Everest on May 19. He is the second Saudi national to ever climb Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Prince Bandar is also the youngest Arab to climb the seven summits at the age of 28, and the fastest to climb them, in only three years and 301 days.
Performance of outstanding students in schools and universities as well as those of young people who volunteer in charity work and humanitarian works deserve the limelight.