New alliance to shake up radio market

Media agencies have welcomed an alliance between the owners of Emirates Radio Network and the Gulf News, which will see the launch of a new radio network for the UAE.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  July 24, 2005

Media agencies have welcomed an alliance between the owners of Emirates Radio Network and the Gulf News, which will see the launch of a new radio network for the UAE. Under the memorandum of understanding between ERN’s owner Emirates Media Inc and Gulf News’ owner Al Nisr, existing channels Radio 1 and Radio 2 will also be revamped. And the new channels will be launched over the next two years in a variety of languages. Agencies believe the move may mark an early sign of consolidation in what has become one of the world’s most fragmented media markets. It also signals a challenge to the Dubai Radio Network which is seen as a market leader with its stable of stations, including English language pop station Dubai 92, talk station Dubai Eye and Arabic offering Sout Al Asala. DRN has been looking to expand its own media interests by launching daily newspapers for the Emirates in both English and Arabic. It is understood these are scheduled to launch in October. The link-up could be seen as a defensive move by Al Nisr, which is seeing its traditional territory of the Gulf News being invaded by DRN’s newspaper launch. But others see it as a precursor to an attempt to build a US-style media conglomerate in the mould of AOL Time Warner, which has interests in virtually every medium. EMI, which has strong government links, is already on the way to this. As well as ERN, it has extensive interests in print, the internet and TV, including the Al Ittihad newspaper and Abu Dhabi Television. EMI was also in another link-up last month, when it announced it was setting up a new publishing company with the Arab Media Company and the Saudi research and Publishing Company. But rather than fearing a big player could build a monopolistic position, Optimedia MD Peter Smith said it could benefit advertisers so long as there is more than one of them. “There is too much media in the market — it’s all over the place. “Anything where the media gets together and consolidates is a good thing. Getting together can only be good in terms of giving us and the advertiser another outlet.” Smith predicted that an improved radio offering could allow the medium to take share from television. He said: “Dubai Eye has started to shake up radio from its traditional 80s feel. It’s becoming far more professional. The radio industry is starting to sharpen up.” His views were echoed by Reda Raad, MD of creative agency TBWA Raad. He said: “If they are to up the standards and benefit the industry it could be beneficial for all. But if it is monopolistic then I don’t think it will help us.”

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