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Read this: Saudi Arabia's media ambition

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Saudi Arabia's media ambition…



BBC sounds music Radio podcasts hi, I'm Katie razzall, and this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello the back pages have been dominated the front pages this past week with the sale of Newcastle United Football Club but the Premier League isn't the only area of British Public life that Saudi Arabia is buying into the evening Standard and the Independent can both trace their ownership back to the golf Kingdom whatever in the US Media Giants including Disney and Netflix have had big investment from the Saudis so does this affect the journalism we read all the division we watch joining me to discuss all that Vivian Walter the correspondence for Time Magazine and fortune is a journalist at least I also who's deputy director of the East and North Africa programme at Chatham House and Jim Waterson Media editor for the garden guardian the classic American Music magazine Rolling Stone has launched in the UK

Come as a surprise considering how many Media publications are shrinking Darren Styles is the magazines managing editor he also publishes attitude magazine welcome to the show technically I think we want to call this launch is the original British version didn't really work out so well.

Tell us what happened.

Yeah.

I think it was 1968 Mick Jagger launch the magazine in partnership with you and where the founder of Rolling Stones and you said to me everybody had a lovely time.

Don't through quite a lot of money over a 12-month period thank you office in in Chelsea but the undecided it was it was doing more harm than good when what time does to be the last issue spelt Bob Dylan's name wrong on the front cover so that point it's time to cut and run so 52 years later at here.

We are back again.

You spell check so look forward to hearing much more about that what you're doing this iconic title letter in the program, but let's start with Saudi Arabia because the spotlights been on the football but listen as me.

Realise how in bed that country is the British Media Jim Waterson Media editor at the Guardian just just give us a reminder which newspapers and TV channels are owned by or associated with sad you're well Saudi Arabia is a country the money in it wants to improve it's image and it wants to start improvements image abroad and there's no better place in the world if your gulf States have all sorts institutions.

Are there football on media or educational of the sale and willing to take some money so in the case of the media.

You've got to really problems example the London Evening Standard and the Independence which is our online only were both owned by Lord leopard elf.

Who is a Russian originally from Russia he a few years sold steaks know the third steak stew a mysterious businessman, who's through complicated series of offshore accounts turned out to be in the eyes of the British government connected to the South East

It's worth noting that the Independence made very clear that they haven't had any editorial compromising positions as a result of this, but they feel that they do their job as well, but you gotta ask, what is it that the Saudis have when they buy a third of these quite prominent British outlets and my understanding is that we didn't actually know about this ownership this part ownership.

It wasn't in the public domain sometime was it it was he was very quiet for a series of Cayman Islands base to cancel.

It.

Only really came out it after after some digging by the ft in particular who managed to expose who was the ultimate owner business and what British people might not know he might really independent and you might not notice anything different across the middle east the Saudi owners have taken the Independent Brand and launched the series of websites which have in the eyes of many been seen to push a pro Saudi narrative in local languages.

So even if the brand in the UK isn't changing the side of the power of the British brand can be used.

This is a lot of its soft power.

It's whether it's advertising you see promoting Saudi Arabia whether it's PR agencies in London early massive sums spinning on behalf of all the golf or whether it's actual Direct ownership in British Media through partnerships with companies like the Independent independent there editorial independent designer outlets, but you're saying as well.

Are you that this has real-world implications for British readers British audiences? Do you think I think I think we are all journalism is a very holiday in there is a lot that you can scoop up on the cheap if you want to buy an old brand of the British Media if you so wanted to then.

It is relatively easy to pick one up on the cheap and stuff up with relatively underemployed journalist who available for not an awful lot of money if you want these things and you have the cash you can kind of make this happen and so when we think about what influences has.

Whether it's a mysterious Facebook campaign promoting a country or whether it's a more traditional thing of owning an outlet there is always an opportunity for gulf States and it's not just Saudi Arabia you also looking around the place in investing and outlets they want to shape Western opinion because they care about what how it affects them and how to replace the back home and bring you in from fortune here and that British press pretty much that we talking about but you also been looking at some of the US media companies that Saudi Arabia has been investing in and neither companies in many bicycles use everyday absolutely the one that I delved into deepest was Netflix and the Saudis made a big deal with Netflix hippie said that unlike what was talking about these Are Us companies going out and looking for growth markets and a lot of them are tapped out in the west my we think.

Alexis and company, but in fact it's growth is really really slowing and where are you going to get millions and millions of you know well funded young to sign on to your service.

It's going to be in countries like Saudi Arabia where two-thirds of the country is younger than 30.

They have money to spend been looking for entertainment that hungry for it and as many of The Saturdays that I spoke to said Hillary binge-watch all the kind of the same TV is YouTube we just do but why does that mean that the Saudis want to invest in Netflix because you were Netflix might want to reach Saudi was actually the way that the direction at went to the body is investing in or other kinds of media companies have invested hugely in Disney in AMC movie theatres that wasn't a movie theatre.

Saudi Arabia until a few years ago there hadn't been a movie theatre open and the kingdom for something like 35 years and now I don't there are according to the hedge AMC which runs the I think they've opened about it doesn't multiplexers Iran Saudi Arabia the one in Riyadh does about 7 times the traffic as the one in London on for example the pack today been packed from day one when they opened and I think it was 2018 the first showing was black panther and it was the biggest event in Riyadh in Uno memory.

Do you see around the world? I wonder whether the Investment in something like Netflix the same questions I asked Jim inner senses you does it have real-world implications in terms of what they're saying does it give the

Any editorial sway for example in what Netflix viewers are seeing in major effects as a conifer the hesitation that western producers have now can I can create something that's very critical of the Saudis without risking losing their shirt in the process and there was one instance of the documentary called the dissident to made by an Oscar winning film director hey Martin January last year it could not get distribution.

It was about the murder of Jamal khashoggi.

It took a very long time for that documentary to be picked up by anybody and

Very clear reasons why I'm in Netflix screen that at came to the screening of Esther at the Sundance Film Festival and took a pass on earth as everybody else to put their side and of course I might be other reasons why they didn't want the documentary might not be any good yeah, whatever but you mentioned earlier.

Just this deal with Netflix and Saudi what was steel.

What are the salaries me to production deals with Riyadh production companies and the Netflix made to production deals 5-years and 5 products each TV series or movies with two production companies in Riyadh and actually interesting thing is that so you are like and now click on Netflix and see what they produce and very unusual and rather surprising.

Made by young cutting-edge film directors of which there are many in Riyadh and and recreating TV series and movies that are very clearly critical of rich and Saudi possibly the royals although that's a little bit less obvious and the Explorer you know the sexuality and the using the medium to express themselves at the way that I think might be quite surprising to Weston ODEON interesting up now you mentioned just down the at Walsall manager passaggi.

I mean that was only a few years ago and there was outcry across the media across the world many parts of the world are Western media companies not seeing any push back for their engagement massage Arabian sorry.

It was very little I'm in fact because she gives murder which happened exactly 3 years.

Untame only 6-months after the crown prince in NBS that this major trip around the York and Silicon Valley in La had done all the major movie stars and directors and generous Wonderland the major Tech giants of Silicon Valley steels in six months later.

He was murdered and they've was a freeze for about €1 to but I would say that's pretty much behind this please and you have what's now kind of a schizophrenic experience where you know Six Flags the big amusement park company biggest amusement park building a huge amusement park outside Riyadh there's there's a film festival about to happen.

I believe next month in Jeddah and there's a lot going on.

Play radio which involves Western media company is entertainment companies and they appear to have turned the page castle House good point to bring you in are you surprised there? Isn't more pushback ever what happened with kasuji.

I think there was this 2-year.

Lol where MBS and the kingdom receipted they tried to take a backseat you spell public and down and work on domestic issues, so that's what we have been witnessing over this to your period and will tell of Newcastle I think this is a sort of signal that people are willing to turn the page and as described with so many still looking for markets Western companies have not been very successful or able to push back on human rights issues which in the kingdom of Christ go beyond the brutal murder of Jamal khashoggi and also you know worthwhile elevating and mentioning that activates and women and journalists are detained also in the Kingdom but

The market is a hugely appealing.

There is a very young population that is looking at to benefit from the social liberalisation that was granted by Mohammed bin Salman there is a domestic dying to the sportswashing media washing that is taking place and a software project to domestic drivers of over 4 minutes.

Of course it has brother regional and international implications as well.

Let me bring it cos am I mentioned the football that is the best being the big story this past week the Saudi like Consortium buying into Newcastle United Football Club from the Middle Eastern Eye because in all the excitable coverage about these new owners in football does that should be much less about something.

We've obviously notice on the media show cause of the media show which is

In the end, this is really a media story Innocence your tell us what are being and be out you and how that all players into this commercial rights to air Premier League games and sporting events from around the world for the Middle East and also lot of the global South's current sample in the Big Mark will be in school and what happened was in 2017 when there was an air sea and land located in Poland on Gotham which owns being sports what also happened and this was imposed by Saudi Arabia and also happened was being sports was then band inside Saudi Arabia within a few weeks later what you do to see imagine is a new website could be a cute and this was being promoted by Cineworld advisors on Twitter like turkey and shape who's in charge of the whole kind entertainment kind.

Camping in in the tiny who is been his accused of helping orchestrated the murder of journalist Jamal mentioned earlier and this service was offering the sports offering that Bein sports is offering was in the Premier League that part of it and realised that they did some digging themselves as well as the Premier League and they discovered that the signal that was being used to add these games originated not play Colombian keeping Consulting the Saudis reclaiming but from Saudi Arabia from a company called Alexa which is majority owned by who the Saudi government and then what happened after that the ataris.

They don't look this case to the World Trade Organization for now so kind of get to the bottom of Wight

The wto arbitration process and bw2 your then rules in favour of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Qatar and accused Saudi Arabia of potentially not charging and prostitutes in the people behind B&Q Newcastle That Stole that that that take over the Premier League because being his contract for example is worth roughly 500 million lb lot of money from Premier League and Wendy kind of Newcastle deal became public when the first people to condemn oh and also love me to Premier League and UK government is the steel was being sports, but then what was that happened was in early 2018-21 resource surgery and it's blocked.

And as a result of that and what we also only only last week was being sports wasn't allowed to eretz games and its programming inside your eGo.

I mean we should be between between Qatar and Saudi Arabia point out that the previously blocked the website of your title The Middle Eastern Eye because of your papers links to Casa Jim Waterson got any thoughts on all of this be in the out, Newcastle with all of it.

It's so hard if you're not sort of intertwined in the regional politics and it's very very difficult I spend so long on this and even I struggle with it, but basically you end up with a story where the the thing Block Take Over a Premier League club appears to be more about who's paying for the television rights then about the human rights in the country.

That's connected to the purchasers.

So you know we have a fit and proper person test but I

All of us it comes back to there is no better place in the world to come to the UK if you want to buy an institution to improve your reputation and weather and whether it's football club or Media outlet.

That's what we come back to Malta play the Saudis have money on a scale that very few British investors or backers could even dream of having States used the media as a form of soft power is Gemma saying well as equally involved in investing and using the median trying to protect softpower the money they do indeed and part of the reason behind the multi-year Rift between Saudi Arabia the UAE Qatar and Bahrain was Al Jazeera

immediate station which was seen as an extension of the Qatar government it didn't provide accurate or honest reporting on regional issues with night at reflective of a regional Transit reality is in one of the Damned demands issued against cutter in the 2017 a rift was that charges your be shut down and so it's important to see how that would have coverage of regional issues and of neighbouring GCC countries will change if it all once it has been resolved as a January of this year and so this is very much time to deeper Dynamics of regional competition where you have these small country particularly trying to project power through a sports to investments in the media do their own stations and channels to buying football teams and it's

Politics back on regional tensions and again of course to improve their image in western countries, thank you.

Thank you so much.

You know that fast talking about girl state franchise British brands, but you know let's now turn to a massive us brand that has arrived on British School British Shores if that's not a massive handbrake turn I don't know what is but Darren Styles you're the man director and the publisher of Rolling Stone UK UK edition, what made you think that an all American magazine woodwork over here right now politically Rolling Stone is parliamentary music Maxine has music.

It's cold, but it's also always been political sometimes with a small piece sometimes and also about film and TV and in terms of you to write Netflix only in terms of how people consume television and an amusing now on a volume previously unseen the range of choice.

Exists I think as as a commentary piece Rolling Stone then as now does an amazing job 550000 subscribers across the us see every month and so I think with the way the the magazine markets changed in in the UK the Music magazine market in in particular over the last year Monsters there's been some attrition and something spaces opened up 4 a.m.

Or generalist title and so at the numbers that went well.

I've got a copy of it here Rolling Stone UK 695 comes out every two months.

It's really nice and thick on flicking through it is very beautiful beautifully produced looking from the adverts like it's sort of aimed at quite high-end.

Sort of moneyed readers.

Is that who you're aiming at he's going to buy anything but the average age of a rolling stone reader in the in the States is 41.

And I think people who buy a ink on paper magazine tend to be older because that that that was the Habit of the time.

I think young people get their their news and entertainment information now in tidy digitally be that you can get young people of tiktok off YouTube to buy this potentially yes, but I think I'll really is the audience we know is there I mean Kumasi toast yeah magazine closed last year at it.

It was doing 200000 copies even when it's finished doing 35 to £40 a month and for a boutique publisher are size.

That's that's a great proposition.

So if we can get anything close to that then as you said it's premium computer 400gsm silk, Maxstoke it's a coffee table proposition and under think that that suits people in that that's 35 to 45 age bracket particularly well.

What's the meteorite of the Guardian I don't know if you've seen the magazine but what your thoughts on all this? I think anyone who is launching a new publication at the moment is a very private person especially a friend one so I look brave courageous.

I'd like to know how much British and how much is going to be content from the US version because because you know there's quite different styles between the types of publications at the moment.

This one is got Paul Mason is generated in the in the UK there are 15 auditions Rolling Stone around the world the original us 1 and 14 Australia South Korea China Japan Colombia and all of that content goes into a big content pool and any licensed you can take whatever they want from.

Paul at any at any point going forward we have a licence that allows us to turn to take 50% of any edition from the us and then be on that from I was saying this but we have such a strong music market here and film industry that will will leave I will leave them, but she's contact but obviously has in hp you say some some covers stars won't translate the country and western side of things isn't isn't ask you to hear so some of it translate some of it doesn't but give us the low down there and I mean how many have you sold? Are you breaking even yet and 10 days? So I think we only stayed at this point from from barcodes and the big retailers so I see notice and Sainsbury's in lots of other retail.

Independence and someone if I guess the question is that enough based on your business model but is your business model ultimately we want subscribers because they're the best but but we think we can get to settle down circulation of 25000 to 30000 within a year and we need people travelling.

Why use fast travel points many people who travelling we realistically to get to those numbers and that's only just starting to happen, but I think that's possible.

I think that's still with attitude which is another title at the men's lgbtq lifestyle magazine that we're doing we're doing that now, so we've got 12 14 cancel subscriptions on attitude.

So if we can get with rolling stone and the same when you stand will be will be happy and comfy at that point then, what do you reckon successful will be try and get 22530 grand.

I think it's interesting that that is what?

What is now where you can make a nice living as a small publisher drink that where is 1020 years ago and magazines in the UK sell hi six figures? It's just a completely different market to what it used to be the whole measure water success is basically staying a flow and making a bit of a profit on the side rather than selling £100 hundreds of thousands of a mass-market Max still have a print version don't know absolutely has several it has a global edition Darren was saying we are the same magazine of the world.

I believe and and it still does get millions of readers ASDA's time, so it's not I have a dream is saying I mean I think I'm used to get something like 5 million hours a week and if possibly gets half of that now, but it still does get you know in the

So Rolling Stone I guess but looking at it from an American perspective it has a huge name.

It's it's known for being a can of writers magazine.

I'm so so very good luck.

I think is what we're all saying.

I'm afraid that is all we have time for today.

Thank you very much to all my guests the Darren Styles managing director of Rolling Stone UK will look out for that one Vivian world correspondent at fortune sambac.

Jim Waterson vs.

I will be back at the same time next week but for now thanks for.


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