For press enquiries related to this study, contact Nanci Martin at nanci.martin@northwestern.edu

Media Industries in the Middle East is a cooperative effort of two organizations, Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) and Doha Film Institute (DFI). It is with mutual respect and interest that our institutions entered into a project, our second major collaborative research initiative, that attempts to better understand the media and communication landscape in the Arab world. The first, a region-wide survey titled Media Use in the Middle East, provides insights into how people consume and feel about media. (The report for the newest edition of this survey will be released later in the spring of this year – see mideastmedia.org.) This study builds on these surveys of media use by examining the “other side of the coin” – media production and distribution.

DFI and NU-Q have different but complementary missions. One is a cultural institution with a mandate to nurture and promote a rising film industry for public benefit; the other is an academic institution concerned with learning and the advancement of knowledge in communication, journalism, and media. But both share a commitment to educating and supporting talented personnel for the media and communication industries. We agreed to join forces in developing this study to contribute again to Qatar’s cultural and economic trajectory, where modernity meets tradition.

We are grateful to NU-Q colleagues Robb Wood and Klaus Schoenbach who have done the lion’s share of the work over the past months. Special thanks to Marium Saeed, an alumna of NU-Q’s class of 2015, who has been an invaluable research assistant to this project, and Lea Bowman, whose work with the data on independent film made that chapter possible.

DFI’s working group members for this project have been constructive and engaged in this enterprise throughout – contributing invaluable suggestions, feedback, and contacts, as well as challenges to, and interpretations of, the findings based on hands-on industry experience. They also made possible our use and spirited discussion of a truly unique dataset containing information about independent filmmaking in the region, resulting in some of our most original findings. Special thanks to Khalil Benkirane and Chadi Zeneddine for their consistent, collaborative efforts and spirit.     

We are ever grateful to our colleagues from Monitor Deloitte in Dubai, especially Emmanuel Durou, Gareth Pereira, and El Hassan Khalife. Not only did they do most of the data collection for this study, but they have also inspired and engaged in discussions about which data to collect and how to report and interpret the findings. We are also proud to have worked again with Column Five and its sister company Visage on the report’s website, charts, and print publication, all of which make our data accessible and useful for a wider audience.

We thank each of our expert commentators whose insights bring a richer understand of the findings. And always, this research would not have gone forward without the interest and support of members of the NU-Q community – students, faculty, and staff.

Given the paucity of studies of the scope reported here, it is our hope that this research will encourage more attention to the investigation of Arab media – and it is our own commitment to continue these studies beyond the data offered here. We feel privileged to engage with this research and make it widely available to students and scholars, policymakers, institutional leaders, media professionals, and interested readers everywhere.

Everette E. Dennis                                                                   Fatma Al Remaihi


Dean and CEO, Northwestern University in Qatar                 CEO, Doha Film Institute

For a university preparing its students for careers in communication and journalism, little is more important than understanding the institutions students will likely work for or with after graduation. Such intelligence has to chart the current state and probable future of the media and communication industries in the region where Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) is at home. However, the utility and importance of such information stretches well beyond our university and its particular interests. It is valuable for industry professionals, academics, policymakers, and other interested readers. This report aims to provide them with systematic and comprehensive information about the dynamics of the media and communication industries in the Middle East and North Africa – the MENA region – and its key characteristics.

In 2013, NU-Q started its institutional research program on media and their audiences in MENA countries. So far, this research program has produced authoritative data on media audiences in the region, data previously either unknown or inaccessible to the public. Three large-scale surveys (see Media Use in the Middle East at mideastmedia.org) have already served to analyze annually how people use and think about media and other means of communication in the Middle East and North Africa. The results of a fourth survey are presently being prepared for release. Thousands of respondents, representing up to eight countries in the MENA region, have provided detailed information about which communication channels they use and how often, how they evaluate them, what they think about the available supply of media and communication, and the norms that media and their users should obey. These surveys have become a point of reference for professionals in the private and public sectors as well as academics, journalists, students, and the general public. This research serves to better know, appreciate, and work with vital institutions of our societies.

What has been missing, though, is what the media and communication supply actually looks like in the MENA region, as our survey respondents talked to us about. If people tell us they read newspapers, watch movies, use websites – what exactly are they using in their countries? And in which languages? How many magazines can they choose from? Which TV offerings are available to them? What are the channels and devices that people are able to use for receiving media content of all sorts? But also, who owns these communication platforms? How concentrated is the media industry? Where do the revenues come from? So far, questions like these have been answered sporadically and selectively. We reviewed available studies, some public and others proprietary, but found that no study provided the comprehensive portrait of the media and communication landscape we desired.

This is why this report contains the collected, examined, and produced information on the fundamental characteristics of the media and communication industries, whenever possible, in the MENA region as a whole. It typically includes 14 countries from Mauritania on the Atlantic Ocean to Oman on the Arab Gulf. Five MENA countries have been selected for more detailed information: Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In probing the media landscape, we examine large and small countries from North Africa and the Gulf; some that are quite stable, some more turbulent; media-rich and media-poor with different regimes and degrees of media regulation. So, this report finally complements our surveys of the media audience with a close and systematic look at the media content offering, its production, and distribution.

This report consists of sections for each individual medium as traditionally defined: television, film, radio, magazines, newspapers, and recorded music. With the ongoing (but not total) migration of traditional media to digital platforms, digital has a section of its own. We found little comprehensive and reliable data on the state of the small but important book industry – a rich topic for focused research that we did not undertake here.

Of course, the whole concept of media keeps changing. With the flurry of new social and digital media, in which any person can be a communicator, there is less “mediation” than ever of what they can do, see, and create. But we decided that, still, each section should focus on one medium – with supporting data about how traditionally defined borders are dissolving. In those sections, we will describe as comprehensively as possible:

  • The production of media: the companies, institutions, economic forces, and competitive environment behind content creation in the region
  • The content offering: a description of the media content available to consumers by number of outlets, genres, language, and sources (e.g., produced domestically, regionally, or internationally)
  • Distribution: the methods, companies, and infrastructure used to connect content to audiences
  • Ownership and origin of media: government vs. private, international vs. domestic, etc.
  • Revenues associated with all of the above, especially and including a new and unique estimate of advertising markets

Of special interest in the Arab world are “Ramadan media” channels, particularly the deluge of television programs produced for release during the holy month of Ramadan. This is why Ramadan TV has a section of its own in our report. Separate sections are also devoted to religious TV channels. Thanks to the collaboration with Doha Film Institute, we were able to access and analyze unique data about independent film in the region, which we present here for the first time.

We hope that this report presents a baseline for future research on media and communication in the region. As always, many questions are answered, but others abound. Some findings pose hypotheses and only scratch the surface of concerns that deserve further exploration, which we hope will follow. Tracking the media and communication landscape in MENA is a systematic means of understanding the region that finally goes beyond extrapolating one piece of information or another and beyond guesswork and speculation. Moreover, what media and communication look like is a barometer for assessment with useful cues for charting change. Such intelligence is vital in an era of massive media disruption; an era in which the online world has challenged and surpassed what we now call legacy media.

Northwestern University in Qatar was founded in 2008 by parent organization Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in partnership with Qatar Foundation. NU-Q draws on Northwestern University’s distinguished schools of communication, journalism and liberal arts to educate students for leadership positions in the rapidly evolving global media industry. As part of its active role in the development of a 21st century knowledge-based economy in Qatar, NU-Q engages in research, thought leadership and service relevant to Qatar, the Middle East and the global community.

Doha Film Institute is an independent, not-for-profit cultural organisation. It supports the growth of the local film community through cultivating film appreciation, enhancing industry knowledge and contributing to the development of sustainable creative industries in Qatar. The Institute’s platforms include funding and production of local, regional and international films; skills-sharing and mentorship programmes; film screenings; the Ajyal Youth Film Festival; and Qumra. With culture, community, learning and entertainment at its foundation, the Institute is committed to supporting Qatar’s 2030 vision for the development of a knowledge-based economy.

For press enquiries related to this study, contact Nanci Martin at nanci.martin@northwestern.edu

This study was conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar and led by:

Klaus Schoenbach is associate dean of research and professor in residence at Northwestern University in Qatar. Schoenbach studied mass communication, sociology and German literature at the University of Mainz, Germany, and received his PhD in 1975. Among other highlights of his career, Schoenbach built the Department of Journalism & Communication Research at the Hanover University of Music, Theater & Media, was chairman of the Department of Communication at the University of Amsterdam, held the endowed BBDO Chair of Media Studies at Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany, and became the university’s vice president. From 2010 to 2014, he was Chairman of the Department of Communication at the University of Vienna. He can be reached at klaus.schoenbach@northwestern.edu

Robb Wood is director of strategic partnerships at Northwestern University in Qatar. At NU-Q he builds partnerships between the university and leading private and public institutions, including research collaborations and strategy workshop programs with industry executives. He has also managed and co-authored NU-Q’s region-wide surveys on news and entertainment media use. Wood was a University Fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, where he received his Master’s degree; he received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Religion from Middlebury College. He can be reached at rwood@northwestern.edu

Marium Saeed, a recent graduate of Northwestern University in Qatar (Class of 2015), served as research assistant and contributed significantly to this report.

Cite this Study


Schoenbach, K., Wood, R. & Saeed, M. (2016). Media Industries in the Middle East, 2016. Northwestern University in Qatar. Retrieved from http://www.mideastmedia.org/industry/2016/


Schoenbach, Klaus, Robb Wood, and Marium Saeed. Media Industries in the Middle East, 2016. Northwestern University in Qatar, 2016. Web. 8  March, 2016. <www.mideastmedia.org/industry/2016/>


Schoenbach, Klaus, Robb Wood, and Marium Saeed. “Media Industries in the Middle East, 2016.” Northwestern University in Qatar, accessed March 8, 2016, http://www.mideastmedia.org/industry/2016/.

Monitor Deloitte conducted much of the fieldwork under the direction of NU-Q, and also contributed valuable insights during the analysis phase. Their team included Emmanuel Durou (Partner), Santino Saguto (Partner), Gareth Pereira (Director), El Hassan Khalife (Senior Consultant), Adil Parvez (Senior Consultant), Laura Jepson (Consultant), and Vardhan Kapoor (Consultant).

We would like to thank the individuals at the private and public sector organizations who shared insights and information reflected throughout this report. 

  • Abou Farhat Law Offices
  • Abu Dhabi Media
  • Aflamnah
  • Akfar.me
  • Al Akhbar Newspaper
  • Al Jazeera
  • Alfan Group
  • Anghami
  • ARN
  • Deqoy Music
  • Dinar Standard
  • Disney
  • Diwan Videos
  • Done Events
  • Dubai Studio City
  • Empire International
  • Flash Entertainment
  • Fondation Liban Cinema
  • Google
  • Gulf Films
  • Image Nation Abu Dhabi
  • Initiative
  • Intigral
  • Istikana
  • ITP Publishing
  • Jarnas Picture Production
  • Kasra.co
  • LBC
  • Leo Burnett
  • MAD Solutions
  • Mazzika
  • MBC
  • Moby Group
  • Nawaf Al Jannehi
  • News Arabia
  • Ogilvy Noor
  • Omnicom
  • Optimedia
  • OSN
  • Pop Arabia
  • Publiscreen
  • Qatar Foundation
  • Rdio
  • Reiner Erlings Productions
  • Shahid.net
  • Starcom Mediavest
  • Sync Media
  • Telfaz11
  • Tim Hassall  
  • Universal Music
  • UTurn
  • Virgin Megastores
  • VIVA
  • Wamda
  • Zawya
  • Zee Aflam