Dubai, Asharq Al-Awsat- – Visitors to the United Arab Emirates will undoubtedly notice the huge range of newspapers and magazines on offer. With more than 350 publications issued in Dubai alone, one is forgiven for asking: who reads them in a country of only 4 million people?
Mohammed al Mazaal, deputy editor of the English-language paper Gulf News, said that the increasing number of publications flooding the market was unhealthy, as quality was likely to decrease as quantity rose. He indicated that some newspapers and magazines were published from Dubai but distributed across the Persian Gulf, while others catered for foreigners living and working in the UAE. Advertisement was a crucial source of revenue for publications without which they would not appear on newsstands, he added.
Home to an estimate 850,000 people, Dubai is a cosmopolitan and diverse city. A hundred different nationalities live side by side in the metropolis, with Asians representing 65% of the total population, Arabs 13% and other nationalities 2,5%. More than 82% of Dubai’s inhabitants are foreign.
Dr. Mohammed Ayesh, head of the Media Department at Sharjah University, blamed a shortage of market studies and a dearth of statistics for the huge number of publications. According to a common misconception, he added, everything published will be read. In such a crowded market, many magazines and newspapers are unable to stay afloat. One specialist magazine, Ayesh said, stopped publishing after three issues.
Print publications in the UAE are licensed in one of two manners: Permits for daily newspaper are issued after the approval of the UAE cabinet. At present, twelve papers are published in the country. They are: Al Itihad, Al Khaleej, Al Bayan, Akhbar Al Arab, Al Emarat al Youm, Al Fajr, Al Wehda and the English-language papers: Kahleej Times, Gulf News, The Gulf Today, 7 Days, Emirates Today. Weekly, monthly, quarterly and specialist magazines are licenses through the Dubai Media City. The process is fairly straightforward, as the large number of publications attests.
It is important to mention that a number of publications printed in Dubai do not target the UAE market. In fact, thy see the country as a “gateway” to other Gulf markets, especially Saudi Arabia. They base themselves in Dubai to take advantage of the facilities available to the media.
Charle Sawaya, Director General of “Aswaq al Sayyara Al Arabiya” (Arab Car Markets), warned that many magazines published in Dubai have a very small readership. He divided specialist publications and magazines into two groups: professional publications with a significant and loyal readership and those published without any knowledge of the market, adversely affect more successful magazines. But, he added, market forces distinguished the two and ensured successful publication would continue to appear. “Time is a great filter,” he said.