Murdoch opens Abu Dhabi Media Summit

6:42 AM PST 03/09/2010 by Georg Szalai, AP

Calls for a media market open to foreign competitors

NEW YORK -- News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday that the Arab world can adhere to traditions and values, while also investing in a thriving creative industry and avoiding over-regulation and hurdles that keep out foreign players.

He said the Arab world -- with its 335 million people that News Corp. is betting on -- should take an approach that allows it to make its mark on the global entertainment market, but also keeps it open to companies from other countries.

Opening the first-ever Abu Dhabi Media Summit, the media mogul also called for freedom of the press after media organizations faced restrictions in the United Arab Emirates last year amid critical reports, including in Murdoch-owned newspapers, about Dubai's debt woes. "I have learned that this type of coverage is a fact of life in a modern media society," he said, referencing unflattering media reports about the mogul.
 
Murdoch at one point cited an Arab proverb to describe the opportunities for the region: "if a wind blows, ride it."

"As I speak, there is a powerful (creative) wind blowing through this region," he said, according to a copy of his speech. "Ride this wind and you will raise from these desert sands something extraordinary: a capital of creativity that is modern...that is global...and that is fully Arab."

Murdoch also compared the latest tech gadgets to the desert sun, saying "they can blind us to what is real and valuable." Said the News Corp. boss: "Amid the digital dazzle, we risk missing the magic: the creative content that brings these devices to life."

Murdoch encouraged nurturing and investing in creative talents with "the right incentives." He added: "By unlocking the creativity of your people, you can diversify your economy...provide millions of jobs for a rising generation...and give the Arab people a global voice and influence commensurate with your importance."

Importantly, Murdoch emphasized "the need for global competition to help make local media companies strong" and "that a creative sector flourishes best in societies where governments intervene with a light hand." For example, he called for a transparent TV content and advertising market that pays fair prices.

Highlighting the benefits of more local production, the media mogul said: "Right now the world does not think of the Middle East when it thinks of creative content. Even your own citizens often look elsewhere for a film or television show or news site. As a result, many of your own citizens prefer Hollywood movies or American television shows to local production. You can change this."

Here are further highlights from Murdoch's speech:

* He cited "My Name Is Khan" as an example of a film based on successful cross-border collaboration and global appeal. He said it should remind people that "no nation has a monopoly on creative content."

Murdoch in that context also cited "Avatar," highlighting that "good part of this remarkable film was produced in New Zealand."

* Calling for a media market that is open to foreign competitors, Murdoch said: "Everywhere I have been, one thing is clear: the local companies that are in the best position to challenge us are those whose home markets are open to foreign competition. Sometimes nations seek to promote their own creative industries by limiting foreign participation and protecting local producers. And sometimes these restrictions and protections do keep us from entering such a market -- or limit us to a tiny share. Unfortunately, when that happens you are also making your market smaller and less competitive." He mentioned Japan as an example.

* The mogul also highlighted how his own empire started as a small firm in Australia before expanding into a global player.
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