Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency

Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency
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Kerning Cultures Network team (L to R): Paul Alouf, associate sound designer, Alma Antabli, producer and editor, Shahd Bani Odeh, senior editor and host of Bhob, Hebah Fisher, CEO and co-founder, and Ahmed Ashour, associate producer. (Supplied)
Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency
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Hebah Fisher, CEO and co-founder, Kerning Cultures Network. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 March 2022

Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency

Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency
  • Company is first podcast platform in MENA region to team up with Hollywood-based agency
  • Move ‘marks a huge milestone for our industry,’ CEO says

DUBAI: Kerning Cultures Network has become the first podcast platform from the MENA region to sign with Creative Artists Agency, the leading entertainment and sports agency.

Founded in 2015, Kerning Cultures produces immersive Arabic and English podcasts, reaching audiences across the Middle East and the U.S. It is one of the largest podcast networks in the region, known for producing shows such as “B’Hob (With Love)” — which was named Apple Podcasts’ 2020 show of the year in the Arab World category — “Al Empire” and the eponymous “Kerning Cultures.”

“As the first MENA podcast company to sign with the leading Hollywood talent agency, this marks a huge milestone for our industry,” co-founder and CEO Hebah Fisher told Arab News.

“It signals an increased demand for Arab stories to be heard internationally and, of course, is a testament to the quality of the storytelling that Kerning Cultures Network produces.”

The conversation between the two companies began over a year ago. CAA represented a creator Kerning Cultures had partnered with to create, write and direct its first fiction series “Saqr’s Eclipse.”

“We designed this podcast with the intention to adapt it to TV in the future, and so we started those conversations early with CAA about this as an opportunity,” explained Fisher and Bella Ibrahim, the company’s marketing director.

“As time went on, our conversation expanded to include more Kerning Cultures Network shows and we are excited to partner officially with CAA as our talent agency,” they said.

The two companies will work together to find opportunities to adapt existing podcast intellectual property for motion pictures and books, as well as breaking into global markets.

The network has 13 original Arabic and English shows that top the charts across the region. Most of them are narrative stories that can be easily adapted to other formats, according to Fisher and Ibrahim.

They said the company was modeling itself on the likes of Wondery, The American Life and Gimlet Media, which have had their podcasts spun into TV shows and movies.

“We hope you’ll be seeing our stories on Netflix, Shahid and Amazon soon,” Fisher said.

For now, however, the network’s Ramadan lineup includes fan favorites such as “Sukoun,” a 30-day, short, guided Arabic meditation series; “Kerning Cultures,” an English documentary podcast that uncovers stories from the MENA region; and “A Superbly Scientific Podcast” hosted by YouTube creator Ahmed Samir.

During Ramadan the network will also release “Kuzbara,” a new Arabic-language show about food and the memories surrounding it, with guests like Chef Orfali and Faraj’s Kitchen.

Later in the year, Kerning Cultures Network will launch a new season of “Al Empire,” an English podcast that has featured successful Arabs like Bassem Youssef and Dina Shihabi, as well as shows that will see it venture into new genres like music and children’s stories.


One of three jailed Iranian filmmakers released on bail 

One of three jailed Iranian filmmakers released on bail 
Updated 12 August 2022

One of three jailed Iranian filmmakers released on bail 

One of three jailed Iranian filmmakers released on bail 
  • The 52-year-old was arrested along with filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi in June
  • The filmmakers’ arrest sparked international criticism from European film and arts festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival

Mostafa Al-Ahmad, one of the three prominent Iranian filmmakers arrested during Iran’s latest crackdown on dissent, has been released on bail, according to Radio Farda. 

The 52-year-old was arrested along with filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi in June, days after signing an open letter calling on security forces in the country to “lay down their arms” during widespread demonstrations over “corruption, theft, inefficiency, and repression,” Radio Farda reported. 

Al-Ahmad and Panahi had reportedly contracted COVID-19 in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and were denied hospital care outside the detention facility, the report said. 

Outrage erupted across the country after more than 40 people were killed in May when a 10-storey building collapsed in the southwestern city of Abadan. At the time, public outcry called for corrupted authorities to be held accountable. 

The filmmakers’ arrest sparked international criticism from European film and arts festivals, including the Cannes Film Festival. 

“The Festival de Cannes strongly condemns these arrests as well as the wave of repression obviously in progress in Iran against its artists,” festival organizers said. “The festival calls for the immediate release of Mohammad Rasoulof, Mostafa [Al-Ahmad] and Jafar Panahi.”

“The Festival de Cannes also wishes to reassert its support to all those who, throughout the world, are subjected to violence and repression. The festival remains and will always remain a haven for artists from all over the world and it will relentlessly be at their service in order to convey their voices loud and clear, in the defense of freedom of creation and freedom of speech.”


Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association launches awards for exceptional reporting

Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association launches awards for exceptional reporting
Updated 11 August 2022

Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association launches awards for exceptional reporting

Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association launches awards for exceptional reporting
  • Jury panel includes award-winning reporters from NPR, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC and NYU Journalism School
  • Each winner will receive a $500 cash prize

DUBAI: The Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association has launched a series of awards to highlight exceptional work by and about Arab, Middle Eastern and North African communities.
“Promoting accurate and nuanced coverage of the Middle East and North Africa regions and people is at the core of our mission,” said Hoda Osman, AMEJA president.
“We’re excited to launch the AMEJA awards so we can lift up exceptional news coverage by journalists working tirelessly to get the story right.”
The awards program includes three awards: Best coverage of the MENA region; best coverage of MENA immigrant and heritage communities in North America; and the Walid El-Gabry Memorial Award, named after one of AMEJA’s founders to recognize the work of an AMEJA member.
Each winner will receive a $500 cash prize.
The first two awards are open to all journalists.
Entries will be judged by a jury panel, including Mohamad Bazzi, NYU journalism professor and director of the Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies; Nima Elbagir, CNN chief international investigative correspondent; Leila Fadel, host of NPR’s Morning Edition; Kareem Fahim, Middle East bureau chief for The Washington Post; Ayman Mohyeldin, MSNBC host of the show “Ayman”; and Jason Rezaian, columnist at The Washington Post and host of the 544 Days podcast.
The Walid El-Gabry Memorial Award will be voted on by AMEJA’s members.
AMEJA is accepting submissions until Aug. 28. To be eligible, the work must have been published, in English, between Jan. 1, 2021, and Aug. 1, 2022. Entries can be submitted in any format from print to podcasts.
Winners will be announced in the fall of this year.


Facebook hands in private data to police in abortion case against teen

Facebook hands in private data to police in abortion case against teen
Updated 11 August 2022

Facebook hands in private data to police in abortion case against teen

Facebook hands in private data to police in abortion case against teen
  • Authorities obtained incriminatory messages between the mother and the daughter after they approached Facebook with a search warrant

LONDON: Facebook is under intense scrutiny after handing in private messages of a 17-year-old girl accused of crimes relating to an abortion to Nebraska police.

The teenager is accused, along with her mother, of having broken the law that prohibits abortion after 20 weeks. According to court files, the teenager miscarried at 23 weeks of pregnancy and secretly buried the fetus with her mother’s help.

The two were charged in July with allegedly removing, concealing or abandoning a dead human body, concealing the death of another person and false reporting.

Authorities obtained incriminatory messages between the mother and daughter after they approached Facebook with a search warrant.

Facebook reportedly had the option of challenging the court’s decision but chose to provide police access to the teen’s direct messages instead. The teenager is currently facing three criminal charges as a result of using an abortion pill purchased online and burying the unborn fetus.

“Nothing in the valid warrants we received from local law enforcement in early June, prior to the Supreme Court decision, mentioned abortion. The warrants concerned charges related to a criminal investigation and court documents indicate that police at the time were investigating the case of a stillborn baby who was burned and buried, not a decision to have an abortion,” Meta Spokesperson Andy Stone said in a statement.

This case represents one of the first instances in which a person’s social media activity has been used against them in a state where access to abortion is restricted, and it is perceived as a stab in the back after tech companies vowed to protect users in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.

The news comes just a few weeks after Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg pledged to “expand encryption across the platform in an effort to keep people safe.” Meta also said it would offer financial assistance to employees having to travel to a different state to seek an abortion.


Google opposes Facebook-backed proposal for self-regulatory body in India - sources

Google opposes Facebook-backed proposal for self-regulatory body in India - sources
Updated 11 August 2022

Google opposes Facebook-backed proposal for self-regulatory body in India - sources

Google opposes Facebook-backed proposal for self-regulatory body in India - sources
  • India wants a panel to review complaints about content decisions
  • Google says self-regulatory system sets bad precedent - sources

NEW DELHI: Google has grave reservations about developing a self-regulatory body for the social media sector in India to hear user complaints, though the proposal has support from Facebook and Twitter, sources with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.
India in June proposed appointing a government panel to hear complaints from users about content moderation decisions, but has also said it is open to the idea of a self-regulatory body if the industry is willing.
The lack of consensus among the tech giants, however, increases the likelihood of a government panel being formed — a prospect that Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook and Twitter are keen to avoid as they fear government and regulatory overreach in India, the sources said.
At a closed-door meeting this week, an executive from Alphabet Inc’s Google told other attendees the company was unconvinced about the merits of a self-regulatory body. The body would mean external reviews of decisions that could force Google to reinstate content, even if it violated Google’s internal policies, the executive was quoted as saying.
Such directives from a self-regulatory body could set a dangerous precedent, the sources also quoted the Google executive as saying.
The sources declined to be identified as the discussions were private.
In addition to Facebook, Twitter and Google, representatives from Snap Inc. and popular Indian social media platform ShareChat also attended the meeting. Together, the companies have hundreds of millions of users in India.
Snap and ShareChat also voiced concern about a self-regulatory system, saying the matter requires much more consultation including with civil society, the sources said.
Google said in a statement it had attended a preliminary meeting and is engaging with the industry and the government, adding that it was “exploring all options” for a “best possible solution.”
ShareChat and Facebook declined to comment. The other companies did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.

THORNY ISSUE
Self-regulatory bodies to police content in the social media sector are rare, though there have been instances of cooperation. In New Zealand, big tech companies have signed a code of practice aimed at reducing harmful content online.
Tension over social media content decisions has been a particularly thorny issue in India. Social media companies often receive takedown requests from the government or remove content proactively. Google’s YouTube, for example, removed 1.2 million videos in the first quarter of this year that were in violation of its guidelines, the highest in any country in the world.
India’s government is concerned that users upset with decisions to have their content taken down do not have a proper system to appeal those decisions and that their only legal recourse is to go to court.
Twitter has faced backlash after it blocked accounts of influential Indians, including politicians, citing violation of its policies. Twitter also locked horns with the Indian government last year when it declined to comply fully with orders to take down accounts the government said spread misinformation.
An initial draft of the proposal for the self-regulatory body said the panel would have a retired judge or an experienced person from the field of technology as chairperson, as well as six other individuals, including some senior executives at social media companies.
The panel’s decisions would be “binding in nature,” stated the draft, which was seen by Reuters.
Western tech giants have for years been at odds with the Indian government, arguing that strict regulations are hurting their business and investment plans. The disagreements have also strained trade ties between New Delhi and Washington.
US industry lobby groups representing the tech giants believe a government-appointed review panel raises concern about how it could act independently if New Delhi controls who sits on it.
The proposal for a government panel was open to public consultation until early July. No fixed date for implementation has been set.


Saudi Arabia to host Arab Radio and Television Festival

Saudi Arabia to host Arab Radio and Television Festival
Updated 11 August 2022

Saudi Arabia to host Arab Radio and Television Festival

Saudi Arabia to host Arab Radio and Television Festival
  • Festival running from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 in Riyadh

RIYADH: Hundreds of media officials are expected at the 22nd edition of the Arab Radio and Television Festival, which will be hosted in Saudi Arabia.

Running from Nov. 7 to Nov. 10 in Riyadh, more than 1,000 media professionals are expected at the four-day event.

Activities will include a broad selection of workshops, discussions and competitions based on the broadcast industry.

The festival, organized by the Saudi Broadcasting Authority, will also have representatives from media organizations including World Broadcasting Unions, European Broadcasting Union, Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, African Union of Broadcasting, Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, China Global Television Network, International Telecommunication Union and the Mediterranean Center for Audiovisual Communication.

Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the festival, considered one of the most prominent media forums, gives a nod to its importance in the Arab and Islamic worlds as well as efforts to push for cultural transformation the Kingdom is witnessing, state news agency SPA reported.