History of Media in Dubai

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Even before their independence in 1971, the former Trucial States or currently known as UAE, their media environment was underdeveloped because of poor literacy rates and insufficient infrastructure deployed by the British. During the 1960s when the modern mass media outlets appeared through the launch of the first broadcast radio stations and the introduction of first television channel in Abu Dhabi. Several weekly newspapers that were distributed throughout the region from Beirut also emerged during the same era.

The first daily newspaper of the Emirates was formed in Sharjah around 1970 and then around 1972, the television channel in the city of Dubai was established. In 1977, another tv channels was formed called Channel 33 or Dubai 33. Channel 33’s market is the expatriates since it is the first English Channel in the country. Eventually, channel 33 became OneTV, which was owned by the government. It became a full day channel in December 2004 and eventually became available as satellite channel (UAE Media Landscape: An Overview, 2017; Entertainment and Leisure in the United Arab Emirates, 2010).

More daily newspapers such as English Language titles were distributed across the Emirates and many of them belong to the private sector. From the 1970s to 1980s, the Ministry of Culture created a comprehensive terrestrial transmission network for radio and television to accommodate the new media outlets. Around 1980s, the country enacted official media laws through the introduction of the Press and Publication Law.  It allowed the government to censor foreign local content and even prohibited any forms of criticisms towards the government, the allied states and even the ruling family (UAE Media Landscape: An Overview, 2017).

In terms of films, the UAE government also initiated some efforts to promote film production in the country. The Dubai Film and TV Commission provide cash reimbursements for production firms shooting in the country.  The Dubai International Film Festival improves the position of the Emirates in the global media industry and nurtures the media industry (Media in the UAE, 2017).

The Dubai government also created media cities within their vicinity to convince international, local and regional entrepreneurs and huge production and publication house to establish offices and contribute to establishing the best art they can in the form of print, audio or visual. These media cities are free zone that provides several benefits to entertainment and media agencies. It also offers 100 percent company ownership with a tax-free and stable environment as well as licensing and registration. These media cities include Dubai Studio City, Dubai Media City and Dubai Production City (Media in the UAE, 2017).

Due to the growth of satellite television, Emirati broadcasters based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi started to air content to international market. Even though Dubai is considered as one of the major media hubs, the country’s media environment is considered repressive and ranks around 119 of 180 in Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index of 2016.  In recent years, many journalists and press people either received harsh penalties or sentences. Some are arrested or dismissed from conducting any media activities (UAE Media Landscape: An Overview, 2017).

As of 2016, radio still serves as the popular medium in country since 78 percent of respondents, ages 15 and above claimed that they are listening to radios daily. The Dubai Eye 103.8 is an English language radio station that is most listened for talk shows and news in the country (UAE Media Landscape: An Overview, 2017).







Entertainment and Leisure in the United Arab Emirates. (2010). Retrieved from: http://guide.theemiratesnetwork.com/living/entertainment.php

Media in the UAE. (2017). Retrieved from: https://government.ae/en/media/media

UAE Media Landscape: An Overview. (2017). Retrieved from: https://chronicle.fanack.com/united-arab-emirates/society-media-culture/uae-media/

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