Training is crucialYemen needs a national media strategy [Archives:2005/812/Culture]

January 31 2005
Talking about media issues at the Mass Communication for Qualifying and Training Institute.
Talking about media issues at the Mass Communication for Qualifying and Training Institute.
By Abdullah A. Al-Zalab
For The Yemen Times

In the last few years, the media has proven itself to be the most prominent global factor behind change in politics, economics, academia, art, and culture. But what is being realized in the Arab world generally, and particularly in our country, is that technological advancement and the new modern drive of specialized media have resulted in ethical questions and challenges for media that assist in accomplishing developmental goals.

Education and training in new information technologies have become a major interest of decision makers in media establishments, especially in a time of global competition and increasing use of the Internet. Possessing and mastering technology have hence become the first priority for media tycoons. Meanwhile, the cultural and social aspects in the media have been getting less attention. This subsequently led to pulling out the humanitarian characteristic from the media. A negative impact of this is resembled in more focus on material interests and neglecting the human aspect of media coverage.

What we see today is the transformation of the media from establishments that promote humanity, cultural and social values, to mere tools that use new media technologies to reach the masses and deliver programs that are driven by popular demand of viewers regardless of their intellectual value.

Thus, these factors have resulted in the emergence of specializing media that focus on certain lines of entertainment, news, and other programs, and try to reach maximum quality standards in those specific lines.

This is the global picture, and it is also the situation observed in the private Arab media. But it is unfortunate to see that this has also caused a big gap between those specialized networks and the official Yemeni TV, which seems to be least popular among viewers, and looks confused and weak in quality.

Meanwhile, one needs to admit that despite the injustices we see happening daily in Palestine, Iraq, and other zones in the Arab world, the Arab media is unable to defend their countries and seems to be weak in confronting the much stronger Western influence that drives global public opinion against Arabs and Muslims.

The status of Arab media seems to have surrendered to the Western media influence and simply report on incidents happening here and there with little genuine input and opinion making globally.

Part of this is due to the lack of the professional establishments in media training such as colleges, media departments in the universities, and specialized training institutes, which should have played a vital role in using the potentials of the Arab youth and intellectual abilities to bring an opinion that could balance Western influence.

Media training is a must

From what has been described above, we find that there is a necessity and practical requirement to consider and push for more media training efforts. Furthermore, it is the broadcasting field in particular that requires condensed training because it has possessed that power to influence and change public opinion more than any other form of media.

It is hence important to rehabilitate both the management and cadres of broadcasting companies in the Arab world to be up to the standard that would allow them to present professional media that can convey a strong message in the Arab world and globally and set up the stage to change the negative image portrayed in the West.

Yemen's case

For Yemen in particular, urgent steps need to be taken to lift the standard of TV broadcasting in a professional way according to the international requirements of the current era. In fact the public TV enterprise should even consider future requirements by setting the platform for a new generation of innovative and creative reporters and media personnel who can adapt to an ever-changing world in terms of technology and new media.

To narrow the huge gap between Yemen's media standards and international standards, we need not to apply hasty or random one-sided intervention. But we need to rather start strategic planning based on current factual studies and analysis based on scientific indications and experimented methods. After completing the planning stage, a slow but gradual phase of change should take place taking into account the difficulties and challenges that could accompany this phase.

In my opinion, the pressing challenge that we need to overcome before we can apply appropriate reforms to the public TV establishment in Yemen, contrary to some may think, is not the lack of sufficient the financial resources or technical or human capabilities, but is resembled in the following three main points:

– The lack of a clear vision of how we want Yemen's media to be. This requires proper planning by media experts who know the reality on the ground and understand the direction that the media should be going..

– The incomplete understanding of the outdated and backward mentality in running the media. This mentality with all its negativities should be analyzed, understood and taken into account, so as to have it changed gradually.

– The unawareness of the singular and plural vision to the whole world around us and in all its different levels and segments.

Hence, there is an urgent need for the formation of professionally structured establishments that can cope with the global developments in the media sector and can accept change and in fact become innovative and apply things that may have not yet been applied elsewhere.

Such establishments are the true media laboratories that can develop a more effective, fourth authority' in the Arab world that can assist in spreading awareness and provide content that is of cultural value to the community.

This step cannot be achieved unless humans are trained, educated, and put in the right positions to implement their knowledge and set up those establishments. But focusing on humans needs a courageous decision from Arab countries, whose strategy needs to be clear and goals need to be well defined. They need to establish a strategic vision that puts human development in the center of their priorities.

The current situation

The obvious weakness in the media-training sector in the Arab world is linked to a number of cultural, economic and political sectors. Those factors seem to be overwhelming to a degree that makes governments unable to take a decisive and clear decision to put training in their list of priorities.

Furthermore, an increasing capital coming from Arab investors, particularly Gulf investors is going for the establishment of specialized media that would ensure maximum profit using communication technology (SMS messages, requests, etc.). This resulted in concentration on overall attraction of the programs produced rather than investing in the cadres working in those media establishments.

Hence, in order to get the Arab media from its current defective state to professional international standards, it is essential to invest in training facilities and establishments, sending students for scholarships in media-related academic fields, and providing proper media education in university departments throughout the Arab world.

Otherwise, the gap between the Arab media and the international media will continue to grow, and that is something that will have long-term implications on the future of our countries.

To conclude, it is important to emphasize on the establishment and development of media qualifying and training institutes with new and comprehensive strategies that revolve around the human being as its receiver, sender, producer, and consumer. Only then will our media enterprises would be able to convey a message that can be respected by the world. This is imperative to achieve any real development in their performance of Arab or Yemeni media to combat the challenges and obstacles of the present and the future.

* Dr. Abdullah A. Al-Zalab is the General Manager of the Media Training and Qualifying Center in Sana'a. He is a prominent writer and intellect who has written a number of books on media and other issues and contributed dozens of articles to the local, Arab and international press.