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Start working together, radio industry is urged

Radio stations in the Middle East need to form an association to promote the medium so it doesn’t become “marginalised” by advertisers, the International Radio Conference was told.

Radio stations in the Middle East need to form an association to promote the medium so it doesn’t become “marginalised” by advertisers, the International Radio Conference was told.

Raymond Gaspar, chairman and CEO of Radio One in Lebanon, made the call during the region’s first ever conference on radio which was held in Dubai last week.

“Radio is still being marginalised when it comes to advertising campaigns. It tends to be the last thing they [advertisers] think of for promoting events and products,” Gaspar said.

“The idea is to work on improving the image of radio as a valid medium with a solid listener base.
“I think there is enough experience and talent in the Middle East so that we can come together to see how we should move forward.”

Gaspar even suggested the group should be called the Middle East Independent Radio Association. He said that issues such as radio ratings, de-regulation of the industry and increasing radio revenues were areas that an association could discuss.

Radio, which only commands a fraction of the advertising spending given to newspapers and television, is the only mass-market communication medium that is currently not moving toward a system of audience measurement.

During the three-day conference held at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah hotel, the issue of ratings was raised several times by delegates from the Middle East.

Gaspar said: “With this association we would be able to agree on how we establish audience measurement, this way we can prove to the media and advertising agencies that radio is listened to and we do have the reach that we say we do.”

But during a question and answer session following the speech, Abdullatif Al Sayegh, CEO of the Arabian Radio Network, said: “Why would you go for research when everybody is happy and making money?”

Details on how the association would operate and be governed would need to be decided, but by the end of
the three days at least 10 stations from across the region had expressed an interest in joining MEIRA.

Hassan Muawad, director of MBC FM and Panorama, said there was room for an association provided it did not become political.

He said: “I think there is room for such an association in the radio industry providing it has a clear professional agenda. Normally these associations tend to be more political. If we can convince those in charge that it is to improve the radio industry then I think it will be welcome.”

Jeff Price, programme director of the UAE’s Radio 1 and 2 stations, said an industry body was needed to drive audience research.

He said: “It is a fantastic idea, we definitely need to have an independent body. Research is what we desperately need, this body can make that happen. It is also important that the radio industry stands up to be counted.”

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