BBC to ‘reflect’ on ‘strikingly hostile’ interview with British Muslim leader

More than 100 public figures signed an open letter to the BBC criticizing a “disappointing and strikingly hostile” interview with the first female secretary-general of the MCB. (File/MCB)
More than 100 public figures signed an open letter to the BBC criticizing a “disappointing and strikingly hostile” interview with the first female secretary-general of the MCB. (File/MCB)
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Updated 20 February 2021

BBC to ‘reflect’ on ‘strikingly hostile’ interview with British Muslim leader

More than 100 public figures signed an open letter to the BBC criticizing a “disappointing and strikingly hostile” interview with the first female secretary-general of the MCB. (File/MCB)
  • More than 100 public figures signed letter protesting tone of questioning of Zara Mohammed, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain

LONDON: The BBC said on Friday the corporation will “reflect” on a radio interview with the first female secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, after concerns were raised about its tone.

The response came after 200 people, including politicians, journalists and academics, this week signed an open letter to the UK broadcaster about what it described as a “strikingly hostile” interview with Zara Mohammed that was broadcast by Radio 4’s “Woman’s Hour” program on Feb. 4.

Mohammed, 29, was repeatedly asked how many female imams there are in the UK. The letter said interviewer Emma Barnett “appeared intent on re-enforcing damaging and prejudicial tropes about Islam and Muslim women.” It called for the overall tone of the interview to be “seriously assessed,” and criticized a lack of representation of Muslims among BBC employees. Just over 2.5 percent of the BBC’s workforce identifies as Muslim.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie said in response to the letter: “As an employer and a broadcaster paid for by the public, we have a duty to reflect the whole of the UK in our staff and within our programs.

“You are correct, across the BBC, representation of Muslims within our staff is lower than the national average but it is not as low as you suggest.

“I want to assure you that improving the representation of our staff is a key priority for me and my executive team. We have more work to do but we are determined to get there.”

The producers of “Woman’s Hour” issued a statement in which they said: “While we appreciate that people can sometimes have very differing responses to our live interviews and discussions, we believe it was legitimate for the program to seek to explore some of the issues facing Muslims in the UK.

“‘Woman’s Hour,’ however, has always been a program that listens to feedback and learns from the responses we receive; we will reflect on the issues and concerns you raise in this open letter.”

Davie backed the statement and invited those with concerns to contact the corporation’s senior management to discuss the points raised in their open letter, the Guardian newspaper reported.

“It is frustrating that the BBC is using statistics regarding Muslim employees for the whole of the corporation, as opposed to what we highlighted specifically at BBC Studios TV and radio production,” said Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Mariam Khan, the organizers of the letter, in response to the BBC comments. “This includes the production of Woman’s Hour. Muslim representation in this crucial area of programming is negligible and requires urgent addressing, both at staff and leadership levels.

“It is also unfortunate that they have failed to engage with the specifics of our concerns over the content of the interview. However, we look forward to discussing these issues further and welcome a constructive conversation with both the director-general and senior executives at the BBC about these important issues.”


Netflix’s first Arabic reality series debuts next month

Netflix’s first Arabic reality series debuts next month
Updated 28 October 2021

Netflix’s first Arabic reality series debuts next month

Netflix’s first Arabic reality series debuts next month
  • ‘The Fastest,’ a six-part series about cars and the people that drive them, will debut on Nov. 23

DUBAI: “The Fastest,” Netflix’s first Arabic-language unscripted series, will debut on Nov. 23.

The first season will feature six episodes as participants customize and optimize their cars for drag races across different terrains in the Middle East, with the winning racer receiving a cash reward.

“‘The Fastest' is our first unscripted Arab Netflix series and it will deliver on the tenets of our content strategy with its authenticity, representation, and creativity,” said said Lucy Leveugle, Netflix’s director of nonfiction originals for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“We know that the Arab world has a particular love for fast cars and thrilling experiences, so ‘The Fastest’ will put the best of the best through their paces for fans from the Middle East and beyond.”

Featuring male and female drivers from different backgrounds across the region, the series is as much about the personal stories of the drivers as it is about racing.

“In a journey combining wild adventure with a human element, we will witness the inspirational stories of the drivers and what pushes them forward,” the streaming giant said in a statement.

Tarek Al-Harbi, the popular Saudi actor, comedian, and social media sensation, is the narrator of the show guiding viewers through the twists and turns.

 

 

“Our goal is to have a slate of content as diverse as our audience and we are excited to introduce a new content format for Netflix. We want to provide Arab storytellers with the tools they need to bring their vision to life, whether that’s scripted or unscripted,” added Leveugle.

The show is also a testament to Netflix’s commitment to the Arab world. Just this month, it launched a Palestinian Stories collection showcasing films from some of the Arab world’s finest filmmakers, and earlier this year it announced a new hardship fund, valued at $500,000, in collaboration with the Arab Fund for Arts & Culture to support those most affected by the coronavirus disease pandemic in the Arab region’s film and TV community.

It also has deals in place with Saudi Arabian production and financing group Telfaz11 to produce eight new films and with Saudi animation studio Myrkott to produce Saudi-focused shows and films along with a first-look option on the company’s upcoming projects.

“The Fastest” debuts on Nov. 23 and will be available in 190 countries around the world with 31 subtitles.


Results of WFA’s first diversity, equity and inclusion census released

Results of WFA’s first diversity, equity and inclusion census released
Updated 28 October 2021

Results of WFA’s first diversity, equity and inclusion census released

Results of WFA’s first diversity, equity and inclusion census released
  • Most common forms of discrimination globally were reported on the basis of age and family status

DUBAI: The initial results of the first census on diversity, equity and inclusion initiated by the World Federation of Advertisers to assess diversity challenges facing the marketing and advertising industry have been released.

Initial results identified key challenges around family status, age, and gender as well as ethnicity and disability.

It found clear gaps in lived experiences when these groups were compared to the industry average, both in individual markets and globally. For example, on Kantar’s Inclusion Index, which is generated by asking questions about people’s sense of belonging, the absence of discrimination, and the presence of negative behavior, men scored at 69 percent compared to women at 61 percent.
“This has been a Herculean but long-overdue effort. For the very first time, we hear and see the marketing industry in all its different facets and nuance,” said Stephan Loerke, CEO of the WFA.

Despite these serious concerns, the marketing sector still outperformed every other category analyzed by research partner Kantar, scoring an overall 64 percent on the index, ahead of the next highest sector, health and pharmaceuticals, on 60 percent.

The research effort was led by the WFA in close collaboration with agency associations including the European Association of Communication Agencies, Voxcomm, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week, The Effies, GlobalWebIndex, Campaign, the International Advertising Association and Kantar.

The most common forms of discrimination identified by the survey were family, status and age, with 27 percent agreeing that their company does not treat all employees fairly regardless of family status and 27 percent agreeing that their company does not treat all employees equally regardless of age. Thirty-six percent of respondents agreed that age can hinder one’s career, while 40 percent of women agreed that family status could hinder one’s career.

These statistics reflect a key finding from the census: Women’s experiences are notably poorer than men’s. There is also strong evidence of a gender pay gap in some markets. In the US and Canada, for example, the gap is worst among industry starters, with a 13 percent gap in the US and a 20 percent gap in Canada.

There were similar findings for ethnic minorities, who scored lower on key sentiments, such as “I feel like I belong at my company,” than ethnic majority groups in nearly all markets. In the US, 17 percent said they faced discrimination based on their racial background. In a number of markets, this was also reflected by a pay gap. However, in many markets surveyed, ethnic minorities or foreign nationals reported being paid more than the ethnic majority.

In an industry struggling to find the right talent, the lack of diversity and inclusion is of grave concern, with 17 percent saying they were likely to leave their current company as a result of the lack of inclusion and/or discrimination they had experienced. Fifteen percent said they would leave the industry entirely.

The Netherlands performed best as a country on this issue, with only 9 percent saying they would find new employment within the industry.

“There is a confidence and strong sense of belonging that rings true of the marketing industry,” said Loerke.

However, there are significant minorities in all countries saying they witness negative behaviors and discrimination on account of their age, family status, gender, ethnicity, race, disability, mental health and sexuality, he added.

“No company or industry can ignore this; a line has been drawn in the sand and we now know where progress must be made. The onus on us all now is to work together to make our industry fairer, more diverse and more inclusive — and to measure our common progress in a second wave in the spring of 2023,” he said.

The results are based on more than 10,000 responses from 27 markets around the world conducted from June to July 2021, with the online survey identifying not just the demographics of participants but also their sense of belonging, as well as experience of discrimination and demeaning behavior.

The full findings for each specific market will be shared later this year. The results will also feed into the work of the WFA Diversity and Inclusion Task Force as well as national action plans led by WFA national associations around the world.


Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers

Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers
Updated 28 October 2021

Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers

Facebook, Google, Twitter face grilling by British lawmakers
  • Governments on both sides of the Atlantic want tougher rules aimed at protecting social media users

LONDON: British lawmakers are set to grill Facebook and other tech giants Thursday over how they handle online safety as European efforts to regulate social media companies gain momentum.
Representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and TikTok will be questioned by members of a parliamentary committee scrutinizing the British government’s draft online safety legislation.
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic want tougher rules aimed at protecting social media users, especially younger ones, but the United Kingdom’s efforts are much further along. UK lawmakers are questioning researchers, journalists, tech executives and other experts for a report to the government on how to improve the final version of the online safety bill.
The hearing comes the same week YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat were questioned by a US Senate panel. They provided little firm commitment for US legislation bolstering protection of children from online harm, which lawmakers say ranges from eating disorders, sexually explicit content and material promoting addictive drugs.
Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen appeared before the UK committee this week, telling members that the company’s systems make online hate worse and that it has little incentive to fix the problem. She said time is running out to regulate social media companies that use artificial intelligence systems to determine what content people see.
Haugen was a Facebook data scientist who copied internal research documents and turned them over to the US Securities and Exchange Commission. They also were provided to a group of media outlets, including The Associated Press, which reported numerous stories about how Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public.
The UK’s online safety bill calls for a regulator to ensure tech companies comply with rules requiring them to remove dangerous or harmful content or face penalties worth up to 10 percent of annual global revenue. The European Union is working on similar digital rules.
British lawmakers are still grappling with thorny issues such as ensuring privacy and free speech and defining legal but harmful content, including online bullying and advocacy of self-harm.
They’re also trying to get a handle on misinformation that flourishes on social media.
Maria Ressa, a Filipino journalist who shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for freedom of expression under grave risks, acknowledged the challenge, telling the committee on Wednesday that a law to curb disinformation is needed.
“Regulation is our last hope,” Ressa said. “The problem is that you will be a model for everyone else around the the world, so you must be a gold standard, that’s tough.” At the same time, “doing nothing pushes the world closer to fascism,” she added.


MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
Updated 27 October 2021

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia

MBC to close office in Lebanon and relocate to Saudi Arabia
  • Staff reportedly offered a choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning

LONDON: Saudi-owned broadcaster MBC Group announced on Wednesday that it plans to shut its office in Beirut “soon” and relocate to Riyadh.

The company said the reason for the move is a push by authorities in the Kingdom to relocate all state-owned media and broadcasting companies to Saudi Arabia.

While the headquarters of MBC is currently in Dubai, the Lebanon branch was a prominent production office. The company has reportedly offered staff the choice of moving to Riyadh or resigning.

The decision to move the offices of Saudi media companies to Riyadh from other cities in the region, such as Beirut and Dubai, is the result of plans by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to establish the Kingdom as a regional business hub.

News of the move comes a day after George Kordahi, the Lebanese information minister and a former MBC presenter, caused controversy with his comments about Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen.

When asked during an appearance on Barlamanasha3b TV what he thinks about the situation in Yemen, Kordahi said: “They (the Houthis) are defending themselves.”

He added: “Are they attacking anyone? In my opinion, this Yemeni war is absurd and should stop.”


Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
Updated 27 October 2021

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+

Near acquires minority stake in data-driven marketing platform MEmob+
  • Singapore-based data intelligence specialist acquires minority stake in a deal that values the company at more than $25 million

DUBAI: Singapore-based data intelligence company Near has acquired a minority stake in Middle Eastern SaaS provider of data-driven marketing solutions MEmob+ in a deal that values the company at $25 million.

MEmob+ is a part of Akama Holding, the Dubai-based family office with investments in media, tech and content. It was launched in 2019 by Alexandre Hawari, CEO of Akama Holding and Ihab El-Yaman, the then-head of mobile and performance director of Mediaquest, and current CEO of MEmob+.

The MarTech company has exclusive partnerships with global and regional first party data holders, giving it access to billions of device IDs globally, including more than 400 million in the MENA region. MEmob+ supports brands’ data-driven media activities, location measurement and footfall attribution, research and analysis with a roster of more than 50 major international and regional clients.

“Near, a global giant in the data intelligence market, and MEmob+, a regional leader, were destined to find a common ground and a shared ambition,” said Hawari. 

“Our technical collaboration has now evolved into a financial one. Together, we will capitalize on the attractive growth dynamics in the emerging markets in MEA to further build out MEmob’s leadership position and create the leading global location data intelligence platform,” he added.

In 2020, its second year in operation, MEmob’s turnover grew by 76 percent. Led by El-Yaman, the team behind this growth will continue to build on its track record of performance and innovation.

Near is the global leader in privacy-led data intelligence. The company provides the world’s largest source of intelligence on people, places, and products — processing data from over 1.6 billion monthly users in 44 countries. Founded in 2012, Near is headquartered in Singapore with offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Bangalore, Tokyo and Sydney.

This is Near’s first equity stake in the Middle East. It is the result of a year of research and negotiations to find the best partner to support its expansion in the Middle East and Africa. The cash-in transaction will see the funds injected into the business to accelerate its growth and development even further by increasing its customer base, backing product extension and supporting geographical expansion.

“Our investment in MEmob+ is at the intersection of our core values at Near: Innovation and scale,” said Anil Mathews, CEO of Near, who will join MEmob’s board of directors.

“We’ve watched them grow, in size and sophistication, and realized the opportunities that would come from a closer collaboration. We focus on partners with high growth and world-class management and are impressed by the leading position MEmob+ has built,” he added.