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6 November 2019

Qatar media trends in the spotlight

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Fake news, media startups, and how people’s 2022 FIFA World Cup stories could change perceptions were discussed at the Qatar Media Industries Forum.

Key media trends ranging from the continued rise of digital media, the impact of 5G technology, combating disinformation, and the role of entrepreneurship have been explored at the biannual Qatar Media Industries Forum, organized by Northwestern University in Qatar.

First held in 2012, the forum is a platform that brings the Arab world’s media leaders together to discuss a range of topics that are at the heart of the emerging communication and media landscape in Qatar, with this year’s edition also looking at how the 2022 FIFA World Cup experiences that visitors to Qatar share could shift international perceptions of the nation.

Titled ‘Media on the Rise in Qatar: 2020 Trends and Beyond’, the forum featured a panel session which saw Hayfa Al Abdulla, Innovation Director at Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Qatar Science & Technology Park, Fatima Al-Kuwari, Executive Director of Marketing at Ooredoo, and Steve Morris, Managing Partner at Portland Communications, share their opinions on a range of media issues. The discussion was moderated by Eddy Borges-Rey, Associate Professor in Residence at Northwestern University in Qatar, a QF partner university.

Speaking about the current top trends in Qatar’s media, Al-Kuwari said: “Qatar is a world-leading country when it comes to network readiness, as we are the first country to launch a 5G network, in addition to our fiber technology.

We would like to see startups and SMEs working on creating solutions related to media industries.

Hayfa Al Abdulla

“The latest sports events held in Qatar, such as the IAAF World Athletics Championship, proved Qatar’s leading position in this field, with media networks from around the globe broadcasting directly from Qatar and sending raw material back to their home countries within seconds”.

Al Abdulla highlighted four media trends she has seen at Qatar Science & Technology Park that are closely tied to technology: graphics, social media, content creation, and automated journalism and the role of artificial intelligence. She also pointed out to the role that startups and research institutes play in the media world.

“At QSTP, we focus on developing all technology areas, but what we really want is to connect people to the market, as we encourage startups to be aligned with the industry,” she told the session.

“We would like to see startups and SMEs working on creating solutions related to media industries, and we can provide all the necessary support for this. Qatar Computing Research Institute [part of QF member Hamad Bin Khalifa University], for example, developed a translation technology which is now being used by Al Jazeera, and one of our SMEs developed a sentiment analysis for twitter content.

There is a trend where we see people becoming more selective in terms of the sources they trust, disregarding information that they do not know the source of and that might be considered as fake news.

Steve Morris

“This is very important for Qatar ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and I believe that the future of technology will be revolving around these areas.”

Media literacy and education was also placed in the spotlight during the discussion, with Morris saying that the younger generation, in a social media and digital age, has more experience and awareness of using different media, and greater understanding of what content they should or shouldn’t share.

“There is a trend where we see people becoming more selective in terms of the sources they trust, disregarding information that they do not know the source of and that might be considered as fake news,” he said.

“This raises a fascinating question on how brands, governments, and news organizations can maintain their trust in order to survive”.

Answering a question on the technological developments that Qatar is seeing ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup 2022, Morris said: “Hundreds of thousands of people will be coming to Doha, and will effectively be directly reporting on Qatar by sharing their experiences, which is much stronger than the narrative and preconceptions of the political media.

“It will be interesting to see how the story that the political media wants to tell can be different from the living story of people, and it can completely turn the perceptions of how news is reported.”

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