Browsing 'NU-Q' News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Around one in six independent films produced in the Arab world are “made in Qatar,” according to a new wide-ranging study looking at media trends in the Middle East.

The country is responsible for the funding and production of 17 percent of all Arab indie films, just behind France, Egypt and Lebanon who each produce 20 percent of the total market, findings from the Media Industries in the Middle East 2016 Report said.

The report, a joint initiative of Northwestern University in Qatar and Doha Film Institute (DFI), was launched this week during the annual Qumra film festival, which aims to support fledgling film talent in the region.

The research studies all genres of media across the Middle East, looking at trends such as newspaper circulation, which has remained relatively static unlike the rest of the world, and advertising revenues, which are down for magazines and newspapers but stable for TV and a growth area for digital.

Indie film funding

Using five years’ worth of data from DFI, researchers were able to look more closely at trends in filmmaking, particularly the independent sector.

“Our analysis of previously unreleased data compiled by the Doha Film Institute reveals a robust independent film scene in the Arab World, which reflects far greater diversity than the relatively homogeneous mainstream cinema that has been the custom in the Middle East,” the report states.

One of the key findings of the movie-making research is that more than a quarter (26 percent) of all independent film directors are female – twice the figure for mainstream films (13 percent).

For illustrative purposes only

Omar Chatriwala / Flickr / Doha News

For illustrative purposes only

Funding on average 43 films a year in the five years from 2011, DFI gives the most grants for independent films in the Arab world.

The Sanad Abu Dhabi Film Fund comes in second, with an average of 20 films given grants during the same time, the report shows.

“DFI is now one of the main funding bodies for film in the region, and the vast majority of film-makers apply to them for funding,” the report’s co-author Robb Wood told Doha News.

While Qatar fares well in terms of its investment in independent cinema, it still falls behind the other countries in the region in terms of creative talent and its nationals don’t feature in the study’s lists of most common nationalities of producers, directors or writers.

Internet TV growth

Trends regarding TV production, viewing and advertising across the region were another key area of study.

“TV in the region is expanding so fast, particularly the number of channels, and this is marked in internet protocol TV (IPTV),” Wood added.

Growth of IPTV (such as Netflix and Hulu) in the region, particularly in Gulf countries due to their faster internet, has outstripped the global average despite starting from a relatively low base, the report found.

Qatar’s beIN Sports is the region’s leading provider of pay tv, with around 1.9 million subscriptions, some way ahead of Emirates-based OSN’s 1.3 million subscriptions.

In Qatar and the UAE, the high percentage of expats has helped to drive up the penetration of pay TV to 80 percent.

But the MENA region as a whole only stands at 9 to 10 percent, which is “still far behind other markets” such as North America (80 to 85 percent) and Europe (55 to 60 percent), the report said.

Looking at digital developments, Qatar has the region’s second-highest level of internet penetration (90 percent), just behind the UAE (97 percent) and the third-highest mobile broadband subscription rate (77 percent), after the UAE (89 percent) and Saudi Arabia (85 percent).

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Colin Harris/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar’s website reach is also strong, with 65.07 million total unique views internationally per month – more than double the figure for its neighbor Saudi Arabia (24.35 million).

The most popular Qatar sites were overwhelmingly in the news and current affairs (98 percent) category, with a significant proportion of this likely to be Al Jazeera, Wood said.

While digital advertising revenue is growing in the region at nearly twice the rate of other markets in the world (at an annual compound growth rate of 39 percent), its share of the market is a long way behind.

“At the moment, regional advertising spend is still heavily focused on traditional media and when it comes to digital, ad spend is mostly funneled into websites. The relative share of mobile advertising, the fastest growing advertising platform in other markets, is relatively small in the region, despite its popularity with consumers,” the report states.


Northwestern University in Qatar


Northwestern University in Qatar

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) has renewed its contract with Qatar Foundation for another 10 years, as construction of its permanent home in Education City finally nears completion.

The journalism and communications school will now operate in Qatar until at least 2028.

NU-Q dean and CEO Everette Dennis announced the new deal, first reported by The Daily Q, in an email to the university community last week.

While he said the renewal of the current agreement – which expires in 2018 – was “anticipated,” he also called it a “new lease on life for NU-Q.”

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The school opened its Qatar campus in 2008 and is one of six American universities operating in Education City.

Over the past several years, it has drawn scrutiny for teaching Western-style journalism in a country that’s been criticized for its lack of media freedom.

Some students have even been arrested while covering stories, and others have recounted incidents of intimidation by police.

In an email to Doha News, a school spokesperson said the financial details of the agreement were confidential, but confirmed that QF covers NU-Q’s operating costs.

Though many QF schools have undergone budget tightening in recent years, the spokesperson added that there were no major changes between the current deal and the new agreement, which will start in the 2017-18 academic year.

New building

NU-Q’s operations are currently divided between space inside Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar’s building as well as a temporary studio structure.

However, after years of delays, NUQ’s permanent building is nearly complete.

The new 515,000-square-foot (47,845 square meters) facility is scheduled to be occupied during the 2016-17 academic year, although a specific opening date has not been set.

The building broke ground in 2011 and was originally supposed to open in 2013.

Additionally, plans to develop a master’s degree program “will take shape” once NU-Q moves into its new building, the spokesperson said.

NU-Q currently has 207 students and 32 faculty members. Since launching, the school has graduated nearly 140 students, according to NU-Q’s 2014-15 annual report.

Academic freedom

Qatar’s media is ranked “not free” by US think tank Freedom House and the Gulf state’s ranking on Reporters Without Borders’ annual press freedoms list has slipped for two straight years.

This makes NU-Q’s journalism program a curiosity for many observers, especially those outside the country.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Last year, Stephen Eisenman – who was president of Northwestern’s faculty senate at the time – traveled to Qatar on a three-day visit to investigate academic freedom and freedom of inquiry at NU-Q, among other questions.

The art history professor subsequently wrote a six-page report is which he suggested there is a degree of self-censorship on campus, although it doesn’t appear to be hurting the school’s quality of education:

“NUQ students, judging by their spoken responses to my questions, appear to have internalized many speech restrictions and willingly operate within them. They nevertheless also appear able to conduct serious journalistic and other academic inquiry.”

For their part, NU-Q administrators and staff members have consistently denied they face any restrictions in the classroom.

“Students write stories about guest workers, sexuality issues, all kinds of controversial subjects,” Dennis told the New York Times in 2013.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In his report, Eisenman raised more serious concerns about academic freedom at NU-Q. He said the use of one, two and three-year contracts leave staff vulnerable and that the only way to guarantee complete academic freedom is to employ tenured faculty.

Dennis told Northwestern’s home campus publication The Daily that long-term contracts were impractical at NU-Q because the school’s contract needs to be renewed every decade with QF.

As a compromise, Eisenman suggested in his report that five-year appointments be considered.

NU-Q did not respond to a question on whether this recommendation would be adopted now that the school’s future is secure until the 2027-28 school year.


Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Nick Olejniczak/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

More than half of all Qatar residents polled in a recent survey said they support stricter regulation of online material in the country – the highest such sentiment across the region.

However, those polled in Qatar also cited a desire to support freedom of expression on the internet, according to the latest edition of Media Use In the Middle East.

For illustrative purposes only.


For illustrative purposes only.

The survey was conducted by Northwestern University in Qatar, in conjunction with Harris Poll.

It quizzed 6,093 adults in six countries – Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt – between Feb. 3 and March 9 about their attitudes and behaviors regarding traditional and new media use.

It builds on a previous report published in 2013 and provides a snapshot of residents’ views, and touches upon the types of media people prefer to use in different countries.

This year’s results concluded that fewer people across the region are comfortable expressing political opinions compared to 2013, particularly in post-revolution Egypt and Tunisia.

The survey also saw a drop in the percentage of people who believe that they should be allowed to criticize governments online, from 49 percent in 2013 to 44 percent this year.

Speaking about what appeared to be Qatar’s ambivalence with relation to online control and freedom of expression, Justin Martin, assistant professor in residence at NU-Q, told Doha News that this contradiction was also reflected in the wider region.

He added:

“In this part of the world it seems to be that respondents say that people should be able to access what they want online, but at the same time, they want some regulation. They want freedom, but also some semblance of order.”

Online control

Residents in Qatar were most likely in the region to support an increase in online controls, with 55 percent saying they were in in favor of the idea, which is slightly down from the 2013 figure of 57 percent.

Media Use in Middle East


Media Use in Middle East

Qatari nationals in particular said they wanted to see more regulation, with 67 percent of those who took part in the survey in favor – up seven percentage points since 2013.

A total of 1,000 Qatar residents participated in the survey: 280 each Qataris, Arab expats and Asian expats, and 160 European/American expats.

Over the past two years, fewer people in Qatar also appear to believe they are safe to express their views online.

Just over half (53 percent) of respondents said they felt it was ok to voice unpopular ideas on the internet – down from nearly two-thirds (61 percent) who felt the same way in 2013.

While the survey didn’t mention it, this may be in part because of the passage of Qatar’s new cybercrime law last year, which give authorities the power to punish anyone who creates and shares online content that’s deemed harmful to the country’s “social values” or “general order.”

Government criticism

For the Qatari group, it appeared that age mattered when it came to favoring online freedom of expression. While 67 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds supported the idea, the figure falls to 52 percent among those aged 25 to 34 years old.

Nevertheless, the older group was more comfortable with the views they express about public issues online (60 percent compared to 48 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds).

Overall, fewer people in Qatar appeared to believe in the right to criticize governments online (49 percent compared to 52 percent in 2013).

Fewer also said they feel it is safe to say what they think about politics on the internet (43 percent now, down from 46 percent), which is the second lowest figure in the region, after Tunisia at 37 percent.

Media use survey 2015


Media use survey 2015

Respondents in Qatar also had one of the region’s highest levels of concern when it came to “powerful institutions” checking up on their online activity.

Some 43 percent said they were worried about this, up five percentage points in the past two years. Only Saudi Arabia had a higher figure at 47 percent, while concern among residents in the UAE stood at 39 percent.

Key trends

Other media trends highlighted in the report particular to Qataris include:

  • Qataris are more likely than other nationals in the region to consider themselves culturally conservative, with 75 percent describing themselves as such while the average of nationals from the other five countries was just over half (56 percent). Just 16 percent of Qataris described themselves as “progressive”;
  • Qataris showed strong interest in religious/spiritual information, especially online content, compared to other nationals in the region. More than half of Qataris said they accesed religious/spiritual sites daily (54 percent vs. 22 percent of others);
  • Qataris spend more time online than other Arab nationals (32 hours per week vs. 25 hours). This includes more time online socializing with family (11 hours vs. 7 hours) and colleagues (9 hours vs. 5 hours); and
  • Internet and TV use in English is dropping among Qataris. While in 2013, 56 percent worked online in English and 47 percent watched English TV, this has fallen to 38 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

In terms of social media trends, WhatsApp is the most popular tool in Qatar, used by 77 percent of the total population, although favored by 85 per cent of Qataris.

Instagram has seen one of the biggest rises in popularity, with 60 percent of Qataris now using, which is almost double the 33 percent in 2013.