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JustHere | August 23, 2017

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The real ‘WANT’ in Qatar is better media and entertainment

The real ‘WANT’ in Qatar is better media and entertainment

When it comes to reading, hearing or watching – understanding or appreciating Qatar’s media is a futile and frustrating exercise. In a three-part series JustHere looks at the entertainment and media sectors in Qatar.

Radio
When QF Radio launched its English station (91.7FM) last week, expectations ran high. Finally, an English radio station that would give listeners a relief from QBS! Sadly, Qatar’s rather complicated media licensing rules put a damper on the high expectations. Licensing rules dictate that QF Radio was primarily a chat and education station; hence music would be rationed out in tiny (very tiny) doses.  Even with the clout of Qatar Foundation, the English radio station had to contend with dos and don’ts of licensing authorities, which don’t always make sense.

@nasnas_here @kiwipaula @vanish_forever we’re licensed as a talk radio station and our focus is educational content. The access to licensing

— Laura Finnerty (@LauraQatar) February 19, 2013

@nasnas_here @kiwipaula @vanish_forever is changing so perhaps expect new stations in the future. As you can imagine the processes are not

— Laura Finnerty (@LauraQatar) February 19, 2013

@nasnas_here @kiwipaula @vanish_forever …fast nor easy!

— Laura Finnerty (@LauraQatar) February 19, 2013

But in the last few days, there seems to have been some improvement, with more music in the pipeline.

Guess what! #rise on @qfradio2 is gonna have MORE MUSIC! Tweet your requests & we’ll add to the database! @scottyboyes

— Laura Finnerty (@LauraQatar) March 2, 2013

A Licence Raj?
Licensing for all forms of media—print, radio, television­—is a quagmire one must tread on with great forethought.
ILoveQatar has been waiting for a long while now to acquire a radio license. According to Khalifa Al Haroon, MrQ of ILQ, the experience has been both educational and frustrating.
Just like most things related to governmental process, when it comes to bureaucracy, there is no certainty because there is no clarity. – Khalifa “We’ve put our heart and sweat into putting together a great business plan, financials, equipment, going through process, funding, support from different organizations (including government authorities) and even getting some amazingly talented people on board.
“Our goal was simple. Create an amazing radio station that the community could engage with. Right now we’re at the stage where we’re still waiting for government sign off and blessing. Now it’s just a waiting game for us.”
And as Khalifa says, that’s where the ‘frustration hits.’
“Just like most things related to governmental process, when it comes to bureaucracy, there is no certainty because there is no clarity. We’re really hoping that we can get started and launch a Qatar success story.”
QBS radio, as most listeners would agree, is in some kind of time warp. When QTV was re-launched in December to great response, residents in Qatar did get their hopes up that QBS would follow suit. The wait for that continues. “I’ve lived in many places, however, in Doha in particular, there is higher level of complaining. As a consumer, Radio’s been terrible… not necessarily because the service itself is bad, but because of the lack of options people tend to complain more,” says Bilal Randeree.
Bilal, a media entrepreneur formerly with Al Jazeera, launched Stand-Up Comedy-Qatar (SUC-Q) in 2010. His experience has been more to do with organizing live events, which is a whole different ball game.

 

…because of the lack of options people tend to complain more. – Bilal

 

Live events
“I believe there is a big difference between the English and Arabic entertainment market. The impression I get is that in Arabic it’s far more advanced,” says Bilal.
“It has gotten easier because the process has become better known to me. The first time we conducted an event here we did it without a license. The second time, we were asked if we had one. So we went about getting a license, and the officials didn’t even understand what we wanted. After that, it has been easier.”
This has been the reality, not just for SUC-Q, but also for others who wanted to enter the fray. “If there had been a stand-up comedy scene here when I first got here, I would have just embraced it. But because it didn’t exist, I had to create it.”
In a market as new as Qatar it might be a matter of just one person or organization taking the initiative, but the truth of the matter is, it’s not the easiest of places to find clarity on rules, regulations and licenses.
While the size of the market probably challenges the prospect of profitable live events, audiences travel to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi or to Dubai to catch live acts of global artistes. Perhaps, the possibility of staging quality, live entertainment here in Qatar and attracting audiences from the region is something worth thinking about.

Low threshold?
Though Khalifa thinks that there isn’t enough happening in terms of media and entertainment, he believes there’s also a low threshold when it comes to how much choice can be sustainable.
“The entertainment and media industry is just like any other business; the people behind these projects need to generate revenue to keep going. When you’ve got a small (extremely diverse) market, it can be quite difficult to generate the revenue needed to exist. As a consumer though, I’d love to see more quality programming and media in general. We need more local celebrities. We need unique programming, that’s what makes you feel like you’re part of a proper society, a breathing society. Look at Dubai One. Yes there are entertainment shows, but the local programming gets me excited and shows me that there’s a lot happening in the country. People want to see ‘haraka’ (things moving).”

(In the next two parts, JustHere will look at the challenges faced by journalists, both in print and online media, and the lack of quality bookstores.)

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