The "Monthly" Dialogue Mediology of the "Faculty of Modern Media" in "Arab American University" Discusses the Economic Models of the Palestinian Media Institutions

Friday, February 19, 2021

Mr. Fathi Abu Hatab: the media institutions are currently either restructuring or reducing costs, but they do not consider raising their revenues by understanding the question of: What is the use of what we offer?

Ms. Areej Itani: the rush of media institutions towards inclusiveness and the trying to reach to all people of the community and presence on all platforms exposes the media project to failure.

Mr. Mohammad Abdallah: media institutions must practice journalism without waiting for a potential influencer or political party, and this is good for advertisers to start coming.

Ramallah- Arab American University: The Faculty of Modern Media in AAUP has organized the third monthly “Dialogue Mediology” that was entitled “Palestinian Media Institutions … Which Economic Model is for Survival?”

The symposium that was held via Zoom presented some of the media experts who provided their critical evaluation to the Palestinian and Arab media institutions especially under the circumstances and challenges they face while delivering their missions.

Dr. Hanady Dwaikat – the Dean of the Faculty of Modern Media welcomed the expert participants and the guests, and ensured that the monthly virtual symposiums are reflecting the mission of the faculty to create media discussions through the activities, symposiums and training they provide to media people.

She added: “we in the Faculty of Modern Media are concerned in everything that needs to be discussed about Palestinian media and media institutions. We believe in collaboration with journalists, academics, experts and institutions, and we feel that we are responsible to work together in order to implement changes, the good changes that come as a result of deep discussions of the different issues aiming to reach and build some good strategic plans.”

Three Determinants of the Palestinian Media

Mr. Saeed Abu Mualla- the Digital Marketing professor in AAUP and the moderator of this symposium started the meeting by talking about the three main determinants that led the Palestinian Media to its current situation. The main determinant is the idea that the Media institutions are struggle institutions, and this made the media institutions work to be directed away from the financial profit as they stood for the Palestinian cause through the years. This affected the work of the Palestinian media organizations and affected their profit and payoff.

The second determinant that impacted the media institutions work is the development of the civil society institutions and organizations that have media projects in their work field. The work of such institutions has developed basically through the huge funds from some international institutions, and this in a way affected the independent media fund models that might be able to balance between the operational expenses and the income of the organization.

And finally the third determinant according to Abu Mualla is technology, its new business patterns and the emergence of digital platforms to which the public got interested in. This led to a decline in the commercial advertising market that is turning to digital platforms instead of the traditional media means and this affected the media work and put its work in danger.  

Mr. Abu Mualla added: “this leads us to the urgency to discuss the reality of the Palestinian media institutions hoping that we can figure a way to survive, especially that those institutions have a great role in servicing the cause against the occupation. We must not give up to the current phase and the question now is: what is the best economic model that is expected to solve the problems that these institutions face?”

No Journalism without Measurements and Evaluations

Mr. Fathi Abu Hatab- the Expert in the “Technology - Publishers' Economics” field started his discussion by ensuring that the media institutions and media field was not supposed to be shocked of where the media in Palestine has reached. And if the language of the “news society” was suspicious and not so clear, this means that we are really facing a huge problem.

He continued: “the problem is in the work places/ media organizations that is part of the economic but with no figures or numbers, as until this moment we have no idea what is the real economic status of the media institutions. The absence of information especially concerning the profits and losses of the organizations makes it closer to being an incomplete-eligibility industry.

Mr. Abu Hatab added: “the idea that profit is not an important issue, this is specifically the main reason for such crisis! And now the critical question is who funds such institutions? Knowing that the choices are limited as it might be countries, or governments, or advertising or maybe through what we call the “Political Money”.

About the choices of the media organizations, Abu Hatab ensured that: “we do not have the luxury to choose between different models as we only have two models. The first is a model that relay on the commercial advertisings and sales, and it is really hard for media to continue depending on it since media is now not only controlled by the traditional news rooms! And people who want to advertise their businesses do not wait to get a turn in the “news rooms”.”

He continued: “the challenge today is that we need to discuss the topic as an industry not as a message only, and both should not interact!” The second model according to Abu Hatab is “the participations model” and the question is what does it mean for the media organization to be participated in exchange of a certain fee?  This is important since it means that there is a reader who decided to pay some money just to participate in your service as he is not a regular visitor.

Another issue concerning the changes in the media organizations is to know the effect of the media means and how they reach audiences as it is now available in the digital media. The time for the message that is not possible to know who and how it affected audience is now over.

Abu Hatab also said that the media institutions should be ready for the time when they will not become only for news as no organizations keep working as news organizations only because news are already available everywhere. And so, the new role for these institutions will focus mainly on the content as it will start providing solutions, media processing, their special vision and some special exclusive stories. 

He continued: “the news rooms are no longer the only content producers and this is a big change in breaking the monopoly that connected the media with media organizations. It is important for media organizations to strengthen the relations with their readers and to be able to build a real community of readers, not only for readers who visit quick visits to read something or see a photo or an interesting video”.

Abu Hatab continued: “the media institutions was established on the old “Model” that depends on the advertising or who funds it, and this prevented these institutions from having the “business muscle” that might drive the organization to getting profits”.

Moreover, Abu Hatab wondered about the possible solutions: “Are the news rooms ready to some solutions concerning this crisis, and how about the journalists' unions and the journalistic community?” the media organizations today are trying to take decisions to solve their financial crisis through restructuring or reducing costs, and this kind of solutions does not include any revenues increasing. If the institution raises their revenues, this will indicate that the mission of it is being accomplished and is getting stronger, and this does not come from a copied or repeated media content, but this is the reflection of a full commitment to the question: what is the use of what we provide?”

Abu Hatab concluded by saying that: “No organization can live fully under a content that does not aim to reach people among its marketing plans! This raises the question of how the organization can provide “its special main dish” according to its own perspective and to its journalists”

The Proper Establishment is the Solution

Eng. Areej Itani- the Deputy General Manager in Total Media Cast talked about the media organizations and crisis and how to do the planning for media institutions, and what to do  in case if it faces difficulties? And what are the best solutions to overcome these obstacles?

Eng. Itani said that the main challenges that face the media organizations are related to the establishment period, as all institutions want to start properly based on some basics such as: clear goals, knowing the targeted audience, specific ideas on  the content and then to determine the units and departments of the organization.

She said that from our reviews to the large media organizations, we noticed that one big problem is that there is no separation between the establishment budget and the operational budget, and most of the budget goes to the establishment and this is a serious problem.

Eng. Itani continued: “one problem that the project owners face is that if the project supervisor was of a technical background, then most of the budget goes to the establishment of studios and technical devices and this impact the operational budget”. 

Eng. Itani also discussed the idea of the enthusiasm of project owners towards inclusiveness as they try to reach all people of the community and be present on all satellites and places, which exposes the media project to failure. It is better for media project owners to know where to go? Who they will compete? and to put the budget in its right place. This is the same mistake that project managers make if they come from a production background because they will direct the budget towards programs and production.

She concluded that in case the organization has faced a financial crisis, then it should review the starting point and then edit it to be adjusted to the new circumstances and work on the new targeted audience. Some of the actions will be such as reducing the production budget and improve the time of programs and make sure not to be repeated. Also the organization can reduce the capacity and spaces and work on restructuring in a way to make sure that this will not affect the content”.

A Tough Realty and Out of Box Solutions

Mr. Mohammad Abdallah- the Editorial Director of Al Iqtisadi site and the Head of the Economic Journalists at Anadolu Agency thinks that the worst periods for media are the periods of economic prosperity since it leads that the media organization will not be able to read reality good and then will not be prepared to face crisis that might happen later.

Mr. Abdallah said: “a huge part of the Palestinian media organizations problem is the administrative loss, and I do not mean the journalist administration, but the manager who has financial and administrative experience. Most of the times, the editorial director in the institution (the journalist) is the one who deals with the administrative and financial issues in the organization.”

He indicated that the media market is facing lots of changes such as the monopoly market has almost disappeared and so the traditional media means face a difficulty in collecting news and preparing it to be shared for reader. In addition, the media market is getting more and more complex and this affect the content badly. People are becoming less enthusiastic to pay for it and some citizens are now able to create a content that is equal or even better than the one a journalist creates, and they also have the ability to upload it on social media and have other people commenting on it.    

Mr. Abdallah continued: “A huge part of the news nowadays is an unfiltered content and a great part of it also reflects the perspective of the owner or a political party. But the truth says that nobody will pay any money for news that does not have a different opinion or a different expert, and so the content providing system will fail if no creativity is shown”.

Mr. Abdallah explained how journalists now started to do their jobs in a traditional way without making any economic value for their journalist work, and said: “and by the economic value I mean the individuality in reaching the information and then share it in a special way”. The skills and activities that journalists used to have are now not so special as normal people can do the same, and this kills their creativity and reduces the value of their work and their profit.

In his speech, Mr. Abdallah presented different solutions including the awareness of changes that the media institutions face especially the advertising market and the competition in this field from Facebook and Google.

He added: “some news says that taxes will be imposed over the social media advertisements and will be granted to the media means that lost their income resources. This happened in Australia a year ago, but this issue is still under discussion and needs some more researches and pressures in Palestine”.

He also stressed on the importance of discussing the idea of building a huge data for your audience to benefit from, which some might see is unethical but it is part of solving the problem.

Moreover, Mr. Abdallah presented the cases of showing content after making people participate, which some of the news sites started doing such as: Bloomberg, New York Times and Financial Times. However, the challenge is whether our local media means have a content that encourage people to participate and pay for it?

Mr. Abdallah added that providing a good and competitive content needs a hard work on the algorithms and artificial intelligence in order to get a “high visit” average by investing in algorithms to get a “trend” in a certain area. He also ensured that the strong content will be able to prevent the advertiser, and so the media organizations need to work with no concerns for a potential advertiser or political faction.  

Furthermore, Mr. Abdallah asked the media organizations to step out of the box and implement new tools such as providing public relations services or producing digital content for specific parties or maybe do some “business” that is not related to the media work like: Real estate for example. 

At the end, Mr. Abdallah concluded by saying that we need to think of an issue called GiGing which might be not fair to journalists, but it is a practical solution to the journalist work. It is basically that the journalist provides a service to a media organization in exchange of a monthly salary but with no end of service fees. This is in order to reduce the difficulties that the media institutions face and is a global thing that happens all over the world in the different sectors and fields as well.