Why a media forum in Riyadh?
I think a more pertinent question would be: Why isn’t there an annual international media forum in Riyadh? This is one of the most influential capital cities in the Middle East, which means it represents one of the largest media and advertising markets in the region.
Therefore, the lack of forums is perhaps surprising, but we believe it’s better late than never. The Saudi Media Forum is an initiative launched by the Saudi Journalists Association, one of kingdom’s key civil society institutions, independent from the government, with an elected board of directors. Therefore, it garners significant interest and support from all media sectors in Saudi Arabia because it is an initiative directed to them and for them. We believe that the media industry as a whole is facing major changes and challenges today. Therefore, having a strong media presence within this environment is important for any country, as it is essential and an effective means of soft power that can influence real change at home and abroad. Indeed, the more media is considered effective and influential, the greater the effectiveness of the community it represents, as well as the health of the movements within it.
We see the Saudi Media Forum as an important platform for media professionals and intellectuals to discuss, debate, and exchange opinions, because the differences, or say diversity of opinions is a healthy indication of a society’s strength and vitality. As Saudi Arabia is witnessing a period of unprecedented social, political, and economic change, its media sector should also be in line with the overall development and modernity taking place today, for stagnancy in the language of the media can be seen as the symbolic death for any nation, while innovation is the engine that drives a nation forward. The platform does not only require the development of media systems and laws, but the development and qualification of media personnel as well, for no matter how advanced technical development is, it is incomplete without the development of media competencies
capable of making a real difference. Forums are crucial in building networks, driving conversations, and bettering experiences, which for any media figure is essential in achieving progress and growth.
We believe in the important role media plays today, as well as freedom and independence of the press. However, we also reject all forms of hate speech, racism, and extremism. That is why we encourage cultural and civil conversation based on positivity and openness, as we strongly believe in the mission of our society to promote the values of tolerance, peace, coexistence, and respect for others.
With the Saudi Media Forum, we aim to highlight the role of media in promoting these concepts and values. Our choice of title "Media Industry: Opportunities and Challenges" is an attempt to view media as an integrated community, one that is today facing perhaps its most difficult period in terms of financial constraints and challenges in the industry’s overall structure. On the other hand, we also aim to highlight the great opportunities born by the information revolution and rapid digital development.
Media organizations in the region are struggling to cope with this new reality today. With the cost of content production rising, we are witnessing a decline in income, threatening the sustainability of many of these organizations. Therefore, this forum provides an opportunity to outline advanced global experiences highlighting media players that have managed to adapt to change, succeeded in overcoming crises, and achieved results that were beyond expectations.
Finally, the Saudi Media Forum aims to bring together intellectual, cultural, and media leaders each year to exchange ideas and share their visions, providing a platform where meaningful dialogues can be initiated, and it also welcomes media professionals and intellectuals from the Arab region and beyond, in an annual meeting of the sector’s key players with the aim to leave a remarkable and long-lasting print on the field.
In addition to the Saudi Media Forum, we have also launched the Saudi Media Award this year, which will include both print and digital journalism, as well as audiovisual production to encourage competition and to stimulate the spirit of innovation and creativity in the field of professional work. We still have a long way to go. However, initiatives such as this are a step on a path towards the development of the media industry in Saudi Arabia and regionally, consolidating the professional aspect of media content and benefiting from global experiences. Through combined efforts and goodwill, God willing, we will continue to realize lasting and positive
Mohammed Fahad Al-Harthi
President of the Saudi Media Forum and Award