Media Convergence in Middle East Challenged by Mindset

  • 18 March 2014

One of the main challenges with media convergence in the Middle East is creating a culture of understanding for what convergence is all about, according to Dr Mohammad Ayish, professor and head of Department of Mass Communication at the American University of Sharjah.

“Convergence is not just about technology; it’s about understanding how these separate media outlets are coming together, and operating under a single media platform with this fusion, and producing a new type of format that is fitted for new media,” Ayish told Gulf News.

He was speaking at the 19th annual ECSSR conference, which kicked off on Tuesday. The two-day event is held under the theme of Technology; Impacts, Challenges, and the Future. Ayish was among the speakers, and discussed emerging trends and future directions of technology and media in the Arab world.

In his speech, Ayish discussed other challenges facing media convergence, and said they include technological, content, and financial issues, as well as government regulation.

He added that the Arab world continues to lag behind in terms of infrastructure, and broadband connectivity compared to other countries.

“Technology is going faster than regulation, so we are chasing technology. Everyday there is something new coming, and we cannot create new laws every day, so this is a big challenge. The pace of change in technology is faster than the pace of change in the media environment,” Ayish said.

To keep up with such a rapid pace of change, Ayish said that pupils at schools and universities should be better educated on how to handle new forms of technology.

“Universities should have their curricula customised to include a lot of material about the new media, and convergence. You cannot keep teaching traditional media practices, and you expect your students to go out in the market and find jobs right away.

It takes the collaborative efforts of different stakeholders in the convergence process; universities, media, regulators, users, and civil society. It’s not a one-man business,” he said.

Despite its challenges, Ayish noted that Arab media have started embracing convergence but in different degrees. He described GCC countries as being at the forefront of the convergence, while other countries were still lagging behind.

“For the future, there’s no other option but to be part of this convergence. The bandwagon is moving forward, and you have to be part of that. Print is migrating to internet, and it will gradually disappear,” Ayish said.