Sunday, July 29, 2012

Essay on the Gulf Arab States

Financing Print in the Gulf Arab States

Research questions
Nowadays, printing is quite a profitable business. Regardless the development of new media and the increasing popularity of television and other audio-visual media, print media still remain very popular among the wide audience. It should be pointed out that the investment in printing is still considered to be quite perspective. Probably, one of the major reason is the audience that regularly consumes the products of the printing industry and that traditionally prefer print media to other, even more technologically advanced media. At the same time, it should be pointed out that in some countries, especially in the western world, the printing industry basically remains profitable due to the mass production and the popularity of the print media brands that are well known worldwide.

On the other hand, in many other countries the investment in printing turn to be highly profitable because the products of the printing industry are really popular as well as print media to the extent that they overshadow all other media, even the most advanced and popular media like television and Internet. Among these countries it is possible to name the Gulf Arab states where print media are very popular and the interest to the products of the printing industry remains stable and high. In such a situation, it would be quite logical to wonder what the reasons for such a popularity of print media in the Gulf Arab countries that make the investments in the printing industry very profitable are.

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Furthermore, it is also necessary to discuss the sources of financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states because it is obvious that the recent progress of the printing industry is the result of the investments and growing popularity of the print media among the local population. Naturally, such a growth is the result of the effective financing and it is really important to find the sources of financing of print in the Gulf Arab states since it will help better understand how print business can develop in the region. This is particularly important from the perspective of a potential foreign investor which is willing to invest money in a reliable and profitable business. By the way, it is also necessary to find out whether the printing industry is really reliable and profitable in the Gulf Arab states or probably there are some risks that make the local market not worth entering.

At the same time, it will be also quite important to define the future perspectives of the printing industry, the possible changes in its financing, and outcomes of such changes. It is necessary to underline that such changes are quite probable, taking into consideration the recent trends in the world economy where the process of globalization has already become predominant and affecting all countries directly or indirectly.


Literature review
The problem of financing the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states was widely discussed in literature since this market is traditionally considered to be growing and quite perspective in the future1. It should be said that traditionally, the printing industry and print media were very popular in these countries where the printed word always had a particular significance, while the new media were traditionally perceived with some apprehension. To put it more precisely, the print media and printing industry practically always progressed in the Gulf Arab states because of the peculiarities of the local culture and religious beliefs. It is not a secret that all the countries that are situated in this region are predominantly Muslim states and the religion plays a very important role in the life of the local population.

In this respect, it should be said that the lifestyle and behavior are basically defined by religious norms and rituals. At first glance it has no relation to the printing industry and print media but it is necessary to underline that the local religious leaders paid a lot of attention to the religious education of people. As a result, the study of Koran was always important to all people inhabiting these countries. This means that since the early childhood they were obliged to study Koran as the major source of human and divine wisdom and its basic concepts and ideas guided Muslims in their life. In such a way, the local population had developed a strong tradition to reading and, what is more, local people are accustomed to perceive print media as the only source of truthful, reliable and wise information because all sacred texts of Islam were and still are distributed by means of printing.

Naturally, people living in the Gulf Arab states have historical traditions of consuming the products of the printing industry that is apparently quite an important fact to a potential investor. By the way, speaking about investments and financing print media and the printing industry, it is necessary to point out that the religious institutions and religious leaders of the local states viewed the printing industry and print media as the material basis with the help of which it was possible to spread Islamic ideology and promote ideas which were convenient to religious as well as political leaders at the moment2.

This is why, due to the paramount importance of printing media to the religious leaders of the Gulf Arab states, religious institutions were traditionally one of the major sources of financing the printing industry in the region3. In fact, religious institutions were vitally interested in the development of the printing industry and print media since, in such a way, they could spread religious ideas and convert new adepts.

Consequently, numerous religious institutions readily financed the printing industry in the Gulf Arab states since the end of financing threatened to the physical opportunity to spread religious ideas throughout the countries. As soon as the possibility to spread religious ideas decreased, the popularity of the religion itself and religious institutions could also decrease to the extent that people would be eventually alienated from the religious institutions and, consequently, the entire structure, which is a backbone of the local culture, could be ruined. On the other hand, it was a real threat to the religious elite of the Gulf Arab states which was very important and often equal or even more significant than political elite of the countries.

By the way, it is worthy of mention that the state was also interested in the financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states and the reasons were basically similar to the reasons that motivated religious institutions to finance print in the region. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the financing of the printing industry and print media by state was also a part of the local traditions, culture, and mentality. Historically, the region was characterized by the domination of the similar political system characterized by the high level of authority of the ruling elite, which, as a rule, was presented by a monarch and members of his family. Such, practically feudal system was deep-rooted in the mentality of the local population and even nowadays, the traditions typical to this system are still quite significant, even though some states have changed, at least formally, their political system. In this respect, it is possible to draw the example of Iraq which nowadays attempts to build a new, democratic political system with the assistance of international community. In the result of the dominance of such political system, the ruling regimes in the Gulf Arab states were characterized as despotic and, thus, they always needed to control the public opinion and spread its ideology.

In such a context, the printing industry and print media turned to be the most effective tool to meet these goals of the ruling regimes which amply financed print in the Gulf Arab states4. On the one hand, print media were traditional and popular among the local population. The local print media had a good network and a stable sale rates which steadily grew while customers remained traditionally loyal to the print media. As a result, the state naturally preferred to finance this popular and widely spread media since it was cost saving and regularly consumed by the local population. On the other hand, it was much easier to control print media due to the existence of schemes that had been perfectly working for years and decades and censorship in print media proved to be very effective that naturally meet the basic goals of authoritarian states.

At the same time, it is necessary to underline that the financing of other media was not very attracting to the states because television, radio, and, especially Internet, were not so widely spread and so accessible to the mass audience as print media5. And this was another argument in favor of state financing and support of the printing industry and print media. Moreover, such media as television, for instance, were skeptically perceived by local religious orthodoxies which initially totally rejected television as the media that offended their religious beliefs. Even nowadays, many religious institutions in the Gulf Arab states are very critical in relation to such media as television.

In such a way, historically, state and religious institutions were practically vitally interested in the financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states. Nevertheless, many specialists6 underline that in recent years the private capital has increased its presence in the print market of the Gulf Arab states. To put it more precisely, private companies have started to invest money in the printing industry and print media since it proved to be really effective way of investments. Moreover, even the foreign investors have started to carefully analyze the perspectives of the local market and in the future, it is quite probable that leading printing companies and print media will make some efforts to enter the Gulf market of print media and gain a possibly larger share of the market, but this is rather a future perspective than the reality7. Anyway, nowadays specialists single out three major sources of financing of the printing industry and print media: religious institutions, state, and private companies.

Methodology
In order to objectively assess the current situation with the financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states, it is primarily necessary to carefully research the literature dedicated to this problem. It should be pointed out that the existing literature basically provides sufficient amount of information about the financing of the printing industry in the region and, on the basis of the study of this literature, it is really possible to distinguish the major trends typical to the printing industry, print media and their financing. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that there exist a variety of literature sources which highlights this problem but it is necessary to analyze the possibly larger sources of information since often the information presented by the local researchers is considerably affected by the local state or some religious groups which attempt to control the printing industry and print media but, at the same time, some of them attempt to pretend that the general situation in the market is quite liberal and there is no protectionism or pressure from the part of the state or religious institutions.

In this respect, the study of the independent researches conducted by foreign specialists may be quite helpful since they can assess the current situation concerning financing of media more objectively and, what is more, using such studies it will be possible to compare the situation in the Gulf Arab states to other countries of the world since often foreign researchers analyze the problem in the international context. The latter is particularly important taking into consideration the recent economic trends into the regional market and print media, as well as it is necessary to pay a particular attention to the development of the local printing industry and print media in the context of the process of globalization which involves the countries of the Gulf into the international economic relations.

Furthermore, the analysis of the statistical data may be also quite helpful in the research of the problem of financing print media and the printing industry in the Gulf Arab states. It is necessary to underline that the analysis of statistical data may provide ample information concerning the real situation in the national printing industry in different countries of the Gulf region. In fact, this method can be really helpful to an independent research of the current situation in the industry and economy at large.

At the same time, it is worthy of mention that in the current research it is possible to use various sources of statistical information. To put it more precisely, on the one hand it is possible to use statistical data supplied by state agencies which can provide an excellent opportunity to better understand the major macro-economic trends in the region and general situation in the industry. On the other hand, it is necessary to analyze annual reports and financial information of companies operating in the printing industry and print media operating in the Gulf Arab states. Due to this information, it will be possible to analyze in details the situation in the industry and the real perspectives and problems of the companies operating in the industry, namely, it will be possible to find out the extent to which financing of the local printing industry and print media may be profitable to foreign investors, for instance.

Also, in order to have a more profound look at the financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states, it is possible to refer to the specialists that are either operating in this industry or are analyzing it. To put it more precisely, it is possible to use questionnaires to receive information concerning the major sources of financing of the printing industry, contact with its managers and send them the questionnaires simply to find the major sources of financing, the general trends and the financial situation in a company. For instance, it is possible to question the managers about the sources of financing, such as state, private, or non-profitable (optionally – religious) organizations.

In such a way, these methods, being applied in the current research, provides ample information concerning the real situation in the printing industry and print media and their financing. In fact, it is possible to receive not only relatively subjective information from the literature focused on the problem of financing of the printing industry in the Gulf Arab states but also analyze the current statistics on macro- and micro-economic levels and take into consideration the position of specialists that are working in this field or researching this problem.

Findings
The analysis of the current situation in the Gulf Arab states concerning the financing of the printing industry and print media in the region has revealed the fact that the trends, which were typical to the financing in the past, have started to change. To put it more precisely, as it has been already mentioned above, traditionally, the role of religious institutions and state was very significant in the financing of the printing industry and print media. Moreover, religious sources of financing were named among the most important to the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab region. However, nowadays the situation has started to change considerably.

First of al, it should be said that the role of the religious institutions in the financing of the printing industry and print media has decreased substantially. To put it more precisely, even a few decades ago the vast majority of the companies operating in the printing industry and print media were financed by various religious organization. As a result, the overwhelming majority of books and print media were focused on religious problems. In stark contrast, nowadays, the printing industry supplies much more diverse products to the local customers. For instance, Bahrain, which is considered to be one of the regional leaders in the printing industry and print media, has become less focused on religious problems than ever before. to put it more precisely, about the quarter of all books written by the local authors published in the country were on literature, about a fifth constituted books on history and translation, only one in a dozen was the book written on religious theme and twice less were the books written on politics.

Practically, this means that the problem of religion become secondary to the local authors that means that these problems are not really important to the local authors at the moment. On the other hand, this fact may be viewed as evidence of the decreasing role of religious institutions in financing the printing industry in the Gulf Arab states. Otherwise, the rate of books on religion was substantially higher. However, it is worthy of mention that Bahrain is unquestionably one of the most liberal state in relation to the printing industry and its financing and it is necessary to point out that the situation in many states concerning the financing of the printing industry and print media still remains practically unchanged and religious influences are quite strong in such countries as Saudi Arabia or Syria, for instance.

The same trend is typical to the participation of state in the financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states. This means that more progressive states, such as Bahrain, gradually refuses from the total control from the part of the state over print media and the printing industry, including financial tools, while in others, like Syria, the presence of state is still quite substantial in the financing and control over the national printing industry and print media. Nevertheless, it is possible to estimate that the general trend is to decrease the participation of religious and state institutions in financing the printing industry and print media, though in some countries this process occurs faster while in others it is slower.

Naturally, as the financing of the printing industry and print media from the part of the state and religious organizations gradually decreases, this niche cannot remain empty and the financing of the printing industry is still needed. Moreover, the need in financing increases rapidly as the industry and print media market grows faster than before. For instance, the interest of investors to this market may be seen from the rapid growth of the industry. In this respect, it is possible to draw an example of the UAE where recently the commercial printing and publishing sector has been generating billions of dollars in the region with double digit growth of 15-20%8.

In such a way, it is obvious that the share of the private capital in the financing of the printing industry and print media will grow substantially. Such a forecast is quite probably because of the decreasing participation of the state and religious organizations in financing the printing industry and print media which is accompanied by the rapid growth of the local print market. At the same time, it is also possible to forecast that the rapid growth of the local market will also stimulate the interest of foreign investors to the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states. Consequently, the financing of the industry by private companies and foreign investments may increase substantially in the nearest future, though it is necessary to remember about the local specificity of the market since the economies of the Gulf Arab states are characterized as developing and they cannot be named really open market economies that naturally makes the entering of foreign investors in the local market quite problematic.

Conclusion
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the financing of the printing industry and print media was traditionally very important to the Gulf Arab states since it was the major media of the region which was extremely popular among the local population. Naturally, the local states and religious organizations, which had the major power in the Gulf Arab states, were vitally interested in the financial support of the printing industry and print media which were used as the tool to promote the dominant ideology and, therefore, enhance the position of the ruling political and religious elites.

However, in recent years the economies of the Gulf Arab states, being affected by the general process of globalization and integration of these countries into the world community, have demonstrated a steady trend to the transformation into open market economies that naturally affected the financing of the printing industry and print media. As a result, the role of the commercial companies in the financing of the printing industry and print media, which demonstrate a trend to the rapid growth, has increased substantially. Moreover, at the present moment the growth of the local market has evoked the interest of foreign investors which may become a powerful source of financing of the printing industry and print media in the Gulf Arab states.
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