FAR AND WIDE
TBY talks to HE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Corporation & Chairman of Sharjah Media Centre, on competitiveness in the sector, its influence on the other Emirates, and expectations for the future.
BIOGRAPHYHE Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Arkansas State University and a master of science in computer information systems from University of Detroit Mercy. He has been a member of the Sharjah Executive Council since 2006.
Sharjah Media Corporation's main goal is to improve the competitiveness of the media industry in Sharjah. What is the philosophy behind your operation?
Sharjah Media Corporation focuses on educational television and radio programs that cater to families; therefore, our programming is safe for anyone to watch or listen to at any time of the day or night. In the spirit of inclusivity, Sharjah Television is also looking to expand and increase its number of channels. We already have a channel for the Eastern Area (Sharqiya from Kalba) and we are currently testing a new channel for the Central Region (Al Wousta from Al Dhaid) that should be broadcasting soon. Ultimately, we are committed to covering all the geographical regions of Sharjah.
Do you plan to expand your broadcasting units to cover the other Emirates?
As a local television service that belongs to the Sharjah government, we generally broadcast from Sharjah for an audience that is primarily Sharjah based. That being said, our coverage is worldwide and so our channels are viewed everywhere—we have Outside Broadcasting (OB) Vans and SNG Vans that go to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the Northern Emirates to take feeds and cover events and news. In addition to having reporters covering all of the UAE, we also have a good relationship with the Associated Press, which helps us with journalists all around the world. Nonetheless, we are still a local, government-run entity and, therefore, our base and core focus remain on the Emirate of Sharjah. To provide ease of connectivity and protection in case of an emergency, we have a networked link of fiber lines connecting SMC with Dubai TV, ADTV, WAM, Kalba, and the TAS
How advanced is the media industry in Sharjah and how quickly is it growing compared to other Emirates?
Sharjah was the first Emirate in the UAE to broadcast over the radio and some Sharjah radio programs today receive top ratings by listeners around the UAE and internationally. Sharjah Television has been around for a long time and the view we take on what we broadcast is different from many others. As a result, it is difficult to directly compare our content to other stations. Primarily, Sharjah Media targets audiences with a focus on culture, tradition, and family values. Our programs are followed not only on television, but also on various digital media platforms and the country from abroad that watches us the most is the US.
Do you see the media sector rapidly growing and improving here?
We see this at both Sharjah Media Corporation and at the Sharjah Media Centre. The industry is growing fast and technology is developing quickly, so in order to stay at the forefront of progress, we attend various industry exhibitions around the world. For example, the NAB Show in Las Vegas is an event we attend every year to check out new technologies coming into the market. In Sharjah, there has been a big change in the way the media industry is perceived. These days, anyone with a phone can be a journalist, photographer, or eyewitness; therefore, at Sharjah Media Centre, we are now also active on social media. The media sector has always been in a state of rapid change and we have to keep pace with that.
What are Sharjah Media Corporation's ambitions for the next five years?
At Sharjah Media Corporation, we aim to add more TV channels to our broadcast portfolio. Coupled with these expansions is our commitment to continually improving our existing offerings, which is part of the ongoing strategy to further increase our viewership and listener numbers. There are a number of challenges faced by broadcasters in Sharjah and the UAE, which is mainly due to the high number of residents who do not speak Arabic. To this end, we are looking at ways in which we can more effectively target these demographic groupings in addition to our already strong Arabic content.
FAR AND WIDE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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