The regulatory framework for broadcasters in the Middle East is notoriously fragmented with national and multi-national bodies simultaneously trying to exhort a degree of control on the industry in an environment that is severely disjointed.
The MENA market is commonly referred to as unique due to the 300 million people all speaking Arabic.
This might be true but are all these people really ‘speaking the same language’?
Cultural differences, tastes and preferences vary greatly within this vast area, yet broadcasting is more or less universal from one end to the other.
While market liberalisation and other freedoms are often held as the ideals that any media industry should pursue, it could well be possible that the Middle East is in fact in need of more regulation.
Regulation could help clarify the confusing censorship issues in the Middle East that see one broadcaster painstakingly editing out material that is openly shown on the next channel. The agreement of a watershed to keep material not suitable for children restricted to certain times would only work if all stations agreed, something a pan-regional body could enforce.
Next is the issue of local content production.
In other markets, public broadcasters are required to screen a minimum quota of locally produced content.
The region is looking for ways to stimulate local content production. What better way than to use a regulatory body to enforce a minimum quota? As well as boosting the industry, it would also contribute towards several of the goals set up by culture and heritage authorities throughout the Middle East by telling local stories in the local language.
The present system is complex for all involved. A singular, more powerful unit that understands and mitigates for the diversity of the region, whilst acknowledging its discrepancies could have a surprisingly positive effect.