* Arab unrest dictates change in region’s media consumption


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An increase in television viewing is one aspect of the shifting media landscape in the Middle East and North Africa in reaction to political turbulence in the region, according to a new study from Omnicon Media Group and covered by the Kipp Report.

During the first quarter of 2011, the average daily television consumption in Saudi Arabia rose to six hours, and to five hours in the neighbouring UAE, as viewers in the Gulf nations tried to get a grip on the momentous events elsewhere in the Arab world.

News broadcasting peaked, with audiences tuning in to Al Jazeera and MBC’s Al Arabiya en masse, helping to propel the genre to that of ‘most watched’ in the region. Indeed the two Arabic news channels almost doubled their viewing figures in February, according to the report.

Western expatriates living in the Middle East and North Africa also tuned in more regularly to satellite news channels such as BBC World News and CNN, which saw a total escalation in audience numbers by 78% during the first quarter of 2011. Conversely only a small rise was seen in the number of viewers of Asian news channels by Asian expatriates based in the Arab world.

The part social media has played in the region’s popular uprisings has been well documented, and the rise in Facebook users in the Arab world bears out the theorists, according to Omnicon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Egyptians embraced the social network the most tightly, with 2 million new users registered in the populous North African nation since 25 January. Daily visitors to Facebook from Egypt now number 80,000, followed by Saudi Arabia with 70,000 and the UAE with 38,000.

The Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera was quick to acknowledge – and utilise - the Arab online community’s new found freedom of expression: streaming viewers’ videos across multiple platforms, following those activists prominent on social media platforms, and initiating a Twitter dashboard. However, what the long term effects of a growing regional reliance on internet-based information sources on broadcast media in the Arab world remains to be seen.

Advertising revenue in the Arab world is starting to improve after a staggering regional loss of US$100 million in February, when marketers apparently got cold feet in case the companies they represented were accused of political bias during times of tumult. Regional media expenditure has, reports Omnicon, been rising since March - although from a 28% mark, far below the 49% registered prior to the ‘Arab spring’.