Bloomberg aligned with vision 2030 values in SRMG deal

Dr. Ghassan Alshibl, MD and CEO of SRMG (R) signing the Agreement with Justin Smith, CEO of Bloomberg Media in Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. (AN photo)
Updated 22 September 2017
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Bloomberg aligned with vision 2030 values in SRMG deal

NEW YORK: Bloomberg wants to play a role in the transformation under way in Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2020 Strategy to diversify the economy away from oil dependency, a top executive of the global media and information company said in New York yesterday.
Justin Smith, chief executive officer of Bloomberg Media Group, was speaking after the company signed a deal with Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), owner of Arab News and other newspaper titles, to launch a multi-platform Arabic-language business and financial news service.
SRMG, which also publishes Al Sharq Al Awsat and Aleqtisadiyah, will be the partner in the region for TV, online, print, and audio content for Bloomberg, which will also stage events in the Kingdom.
“It was logical to go into partnership with a media company in the biggest economy in the region. The transformation as articulated by the Saudi Arabian leadership is an exciting story, and Bloomberg would like to play a role by being an independent, unbiased information provider in the region,” Smith said.
He added that Bloomberg shares the same principles as the policymakers behind Vision 2030: “Free markets, transparency, progress and modernity. Our partners at SRMG also share those qualities.”
Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg and former mayor of New York City, said: “The Middle East is an important, economically diverse region and our agreement with SRMG allows us to deliver the sharpest global business and financial insights to a critical audience of business decision makers.”
Bloomberg already has English-language operations in the UAE, with TV studios in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well as the Middle East version of Bloomberg Businessweek, but this is its first foray into Arabic.
Content will be provided by translation from Bloomberg’s existing English operations, and will also be self-generated by SRMG staff.
“We have set editorial standards which SRMG has embraced. What Bloomberg stands for is self evident in its work. We will operate with the legal media framework of the country where we are, but we will not change our stripes,” Smith said.
Prince Bader bin Abdullah Al-Saud, chairman of SRMG, said the deal would give a boost to the regional media industry. “We are very pleased with this promising partnership with Bloomberg. In addition to the many business opportunities this collaboration brings, we believe the partnership will greatly enhance the media landscape in our region.
“This is an exciting development for SRMG and a strong progression in our quest to offer the highest quality financial and business journalism from, and about the Middle East,” he added.
Bloomberg has been looking for a regional media partner since the demise of the aborted Al Arab news channel 18 months ago.
“They were good partners, but last year we decided to part ways, and we’ve been talking to different partners for most of this year. Leaning into a local language opportunity was always the next step for us,” said Smith.
“The Middle East is a very important markets for us. Outside North America and Europe we focus on markets that are fast growing. The Middle East has been a great market for our Bloomberg terminals business,” he added.
The Bloomberg/SRMG Arabic operation would be based initially in Riyadh and Dubai, though Smith did not rule out a bureau in Jeddah at a later date.


Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

Updated 17 September 2018
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Arabic cinema wins over movie-goers

  • Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, ‘The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,’ at the Venice Film Festival
  • Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film ‘The Insult’

LONDON: Arabic cinema has increasingly captured the imagination of movie-lovers around the world this year, with Arab film-makers winning award nominations and securing high-profile screenings at major film festivals.
This month the Oscar-nominated Saudi Arabian director Haifaa Al-Mansour premiered her short film set in Riyadh, “The Wedding Singer’s Daughter,” at the Venice Film Festival. Al-Mansour previously wrote and directed the film “Wadjda,” which was the first foreign-language Oscar entry from Saudi Arabia in 2014.
Earlier in the year Ziad Doueiri was the first Lebanese film director to be nominated for an Oscar with his film “The Insult.”
“Arab cinema’s profile has been on the rise. There are several different Arab movies being shown at Venice (film festival) this year,” said Joseph Fahim, an Egyptian film critic and the curator of this year’s London-based Safar Film Festival, which runs on Sept. 13-18.
Daniel Gorman, the director of London’s biannual Shubbak festival, which showcases mainly contemporary Arabic culture, art and film, said he that has seen the appeal of Arabic film grow in the UK.
“There is a huge interest and appetite for creative work coming from across the Arab world and there is strong interest in the UK to hear the voices of people from across the region, in an area that is generally represented in headlines in newspapers. Film is an excellent way of doing that,” he said.
Festivals have played a vital role in boosting awareness of Arab film, he said.
“(They) are able to bring new audiences to new work as they bring this concentrated moment of activity. A festival tends to have a bit more reach in terms of media coverage and audience awareness.
“(It) brings people along to something which they might not go to as a one-off screening,” Gorman said, explaining how the Shubbak festival also works with local schools and community groups to increase access to Arabic film and art.
This year’s Safar film festival — which is in its fourth year and organized by the Arab British Center — has focused on the theme of literature and film in the Arab world.
Fahim has created a program that includes movies dating back to the 1960s that have been buried deep in their respective country’s archives, as well as new films that have not been screened in London yet.
One of the films included is the Tunisian “In the Land of Tararanni,” originally released in 1973 and based on a collection of short stories by Ali Dougai.
It was one of the more tricky recordings to track down, said Nadia El-Sebai, executive director at the Arab British Center.
“There are films in this program that audiences will have no idea how many people it took to get that film,” she said, explaining the lengthy negotiations with ministries of culture, national archives and old friends and contacts to track down the much sought-after recordings.
There were other movies they had to give up on ever finding, including those lost in Syria or Iraq, or old versions of films that have not yet been digitised by national archives, she said.
More recent festival entries include this year’s Egyptian film “Poisonous Roses,” adapted from a 1990s cult novel, as well as the European premiere of the work of an Iraqi filmmaker — “Stories of Passers Through” — which traces the stories of Iraqis exiled from their country during the Saddam Hussein regime.
The literary theme of this year’s festival was chosen as a reaction to the growing popularity of contemporary Arab cinema, with the event’s organizers wanting to delve into the history of Arabic film.
“We are delighted by the increasing access to Arabic cinema. There are more films plugged into the London film festival this year. We have other other festivals — the Shubbak festival (in London), and the Liverpool Arab Arts Festival,” said El-Sebai.
“For this year’s edition we thought we would like to take the opportunity to go a little deeper into the history and heritage of Arabic cinema, and the industry,” she said.
“Safar is taking place just before London Film Festival (LFF), which was another motivation for us to look at something a bit different as we are definitely going to see really amazing contemporary films at the London Film Festival,” she said.
The LFF — which begins on Oct. 10 — is set to feature work by Syrian filmmaker Soudade Kaadan as well as the Saudi Arabian director Mahmoud Sabbagh’s latest dark comedy “Amra and the Second Marriage,” among other Arab productions.
Fahim was also keen to use the Safar event as a way of bringing audiences’ attention to a broader range of Arabic movies, highlighting the heritage of the film industry.
“It is reminding people that Arab cinema did not spring out today — there is a long history,” he said, adding that he wanted to question audience expectations.
“There have been a flood of amazing images from Arab cinema being displayed at festivals and most critics had no idea what they were. The more I spoke to people, the more I realized that there is a certain expectation of what Arab movies should be,” he said.
“We wanted to challenge what people expect from Arab cinema … I am tired of seeing Lawrence of Arabia a gazillion times on the big screen,” he said.
He said the selected films in the festival will hopefully challenge preconceptions. He referred to the inclusion of the 1964 Egyptian film — “The Search” — based on the writer Naguib Mahfouz’s novel. “It is a crime noir. It is essentially an existential noir and I don’t think many people will expect to see that,” he said.
Arabic cinema, however, needs to be better promoted, he said, noting a dearth of adequate film critics.
“At the big festivals it sometimes feels like Arab cinema is the bottom priority for critics,” he said.
“We need more perceptive writing. I could name you on one hand the film critics who know their stuff. That needs to change. Maybe we need to have more different voices. Film criticism is still being dominated by white male writers — although it has been developing — but that is still the norm,” he said.