‘The Year of Saudi Media Transformation’

‘The Year of Saudi Media Transformation’

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As important as the panel discussions were at the third Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh, it was the two announcements by the Ministry of Media that were truly headline worthy.

First, Media Minister Salman Al-Dossary said 2024 would be “the year of Saudi media transformation.” The ministry also announced a collaboration with the Saudi Data and AI Authority on two initiatives: a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence center for Saudi media, and a camp focusing on the future of the industry. Google has also announced a strategic collaboration with the ministry involving three pillars: capacity building for local news organizations, supporting the Saudi creator economy, and helping young Saudis to stay safe online. There could not be better partners, or a better time and venue to launch these initiatives, which are aimed at placing the Kingdom at the forefront of this cutting-edge technological revolution.

To put this into context, we should also consider a survey of what global news organizations are doing with AI, published in September by the London School of Economics. Among the findings were that AI adoption varies between small and large newsrooms and among Global South and Global North countries, and that less-resourced newsrooms, especially in the Global South, may face greater challenges in AI integration due to language, infrastructure, and political obstacles.

More than 60 percent of respondents were concerned about the ethical implications of AI integration for editorial quality and other aspects of journalism. Journalists are trying to figure out how to integrate AI technologies into their work, while upholding journalistic values such as accuracy, fairness, and transparency. And finally, almost 43 percent of respondents emphasized the importance of training journalists and other staff in AI literacy and other nascent skills such as prompt engineering, or how to structure text that can be interpreted and understood by a generative AI model.

As editor-in-chief of a major Saudi newspaper, and now also deputy chairman of the Saudi Journalists Association, I must call a spade a spade and say that Saudi media is way behind where it ought to be.

But just as the Kingdom’s publishing houses and broadcasting companies were the industry leaders in the 1980s and 1990s, now, with Vision 2030, we need our media to take the place it deserves on the local and international stages. And just as we were pioneers in adopting technology in the 1980s (our sister publication, Asharq Al-Awsat, was the first newspaper in the world to publish via satellite, and MBC was the first pan-Arab satellite television channel), we must now be pioneers in adopting the tools of today — such as generative artificial intelligence. The Media Ministry’s steps are definitely taking us in the right direction.

• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News

X: @FaisalJAbbas

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view