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tv   The Media Show  BBC News  October 19, 2021 1:30am-2:01am BST

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you're watching bbc news. we will have the headlines and all of the main news stories at the top of the hour, straight after this programme. hello. the back pages have been dominating the front pages this week with the sale of newcastle united football club. but the premier league isn't
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the only part of british public life that the saudis are buying into. the independent and the evening standard can both trace their ownership back to the gulf kingdom. while over in the us, media giants like netflix and disney have had big investment from the saudis. so, does this affect the journalism we read or the television we watch? joining me to discuss that is vivienne walt, a correspondent for time magazine and fortune. areeb ullah is a journalist at middle east eye. also sanan vakil who is deputy director of the middle east and north africa programme at chatham house, and jim waterson, who is media editor at the guardian. also today, the classic american music magazine, rolling stone, has launched in the uk. that might come as a surprise, considering how many media publications are shrinking. darren styles is the magazine's managing director. he also publishes attitude magazine. darren, i think we should probably call this more of a relaunch than a launch but it didn't go so well the first time rolling stone
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launched in the uk. yeah, i think it was 1968, mickjagger launched the magazine in partnership with jann wenner, the founder of rolling stone. and jann wenner said to me, everybody had a lovely time, burnt through quite a lot of money through a 12—month period, had a swanky office in chelsea, but jann decided it was doing more harm than good when i think what turned out to be the last issue spelt bob dylan's name wrong on the front cover. so, at that point, jann decided it was time to cut and run. so, 52 years later, here we are back again. but with spell—check, so all is good. brilliant. i look forward to hearing much more about that and what you are doing with this iconic title later in the programme. but let's start with saudi arabia. because the spotlight has been on the football. but listeners may be surprised to realise how embedded that country is in the british media. jim waterson, media editor at the guardian, just give us a reminder which newspapers and tv channels are owned by or associated with saudi arabia? well, saudi arabia is a country with a lot of money and
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it wants to improve its image and it wants to start improving its image abroad. and there is no better place in the world, if you are a gulf state, to come to change your image than london. we have all sorts of institutions whether football, media, or educational, up for sale and willing to take some money. so, in the case of the media, you've got two really prominent examples, the london evening standard and the independent which is now online only, were both owned by lord lebedev who is a russian, originally from russia. he, a few years ago, sold stakes and a third of stakes to a mysterious saudi businessman who through a slightly complicated series of offshore accounts turned out to be, in the eyes of the british government, connected to the saudi state. it is worth noting that the independent made it very clear that they haven't had any editorial compromising positions as a result of this, that they feel they are able to do theirjob as well. but you've got to ask, what is it that the saudis are buying when they buy a third of these quite prominent british outlets? and before we answer that,
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can ijust interrupt and ask, my understanding is that we didn't actually know about this ownership, this part ownership. it wasn't in the public domain for quite some time, was it? it was kept very quiet through a series of cayman island—based accounts and it only really came out after some digging by the ft in particular who managed to expose who was the ultimate owner of these. and what british people might not know is you might read the independent and you might not notice anything different but across the middle east, the saudi owners have taken the independent brand and launched a 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 sort of power of the british brand can be used overseas. and this is a lot of it, it is soft power, whether it is advertising you see promoting saudi arabia, whether it is pr agencies in london that are earning massive sums spinning on behalf of all the gulf kingdoms, or whether it is actual direct ownership of the british media through partnerships with
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companies like the independent. and they say they are not promoting, that they are completely independent, that they are editorially independent, these outlets, but you are saying as well, are you, that this has real world implications for british readers, british audiences, do you think? i think with it all, journalism is a very hollowed out industry. 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 staff it up with relatively underemployed journalists who are 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 us, whether it is a mysterious facebook campaign promoting a country or whether it is a more traditional thing of owning an outlet, there is always an opportunity for gulf states, and it is not just saudi arabia, uae, qatar are also looking around the place and investing in outlets. they want to shape western
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opinion because they care about how it affects them and reflects on them back home. vivienne, let's bring you in from fortune. that is the british press we are talking about, but you have also been looking at some of the us media companies that saudi arabia has been investing in and these are companies that many of us use every day. absolutely. the one that i delved into deepest was netflix. the saudis made a big deal with netflix. now, it should be said that unlike what jim was talking about, these are us companies going out and looking for growth markets, and a lot of them are kind of tapped out in the west. we think of netflix being a booming company but its growth is really, really slowing, and where are you going to get millions and millions of well—funded young people to sign on to your service?
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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, they are looking for entertainment, they are hungry for it, and as many of the saudis that i spoke to said, we binge watch all the kind of same tv as you do. we just do it online. but why does that mean the saudis want to invest in netflix? i can see why netflix might want to reach saudi. that was actually the direction it went. what saudi is investing in are other kinds of media companies. they have invested hugely in disney, in amc movie theatres, there wasn't a movie theatre in saudi arabia until a few years ago. they hadn't been a movie theatre open in the kingdom for something like 35 years. and now are there lots? there are, according to the head of amc, which runs, i think they have opened
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about a dozen multiplexes around saudi arabia, the one in riyadh, they estimate it does about 11 times the traffic as the one in london, for example. they are packed, they have been packed from day one when they opened in i think it was 2018. their first showing was black panther. it was the biggest event in riyadh in memory. and that is interesting because it is the same black panther you'd see around the world. i wonder if the investment in something like netflix, the same question i asked jim, is does it have real—world implications, in terms of what they are seeing? does it give the saudis any editorial sway in what netflix viewers are seeing? we see tiny bits of that and i would say, unlike what jim was saying, i think one of the major effects is a kind of...the hesitation that
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western producers have now. can can they create something that is very critical of the saudis without risking losing their shirt in the process? there was one instance which, of the documentary called the dissident, made by an oscar—winning film director, it came out injanuary last year, it could not get distribution because it was about the murder of jamal khashoggi. it took a very long time for that documentary to be picked up by anybody. and they were very clear reasons why. i mean, netflix screened it at, or came to the screening of it at the sundance film festival and took a pass on it, as did everybody else. i mean, i suppose netflix aren't here to put forward their side, there might be
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other reasons why they didn't want the documentary, it might not be any good, or whatever. you mention the deal between saudis and netflix, what was that deal? well, the saudis made two production deals... i beg your pardon, netflix made two production deals, five years each and five products each, tv series or movies with two production companies in riyadh. and, actually, the interesting thing is that you and i can now click on netflix and see what they have produced. and they are very unusual and rather surprising. these are made by young cutting—edge film directors, of which there are many in riyadh, and they are creating tv series and movies that are very clearly critical of rich saudis, possibly
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the royals, although that is a little bit less obvious. they explore, you know, the repressed sexuality. they are using the medium to express themselves in a way that i think might be quite surprising to western audiences. interesting. you mentioned just then, the awful murder of jamal khashoggi, that was only a few years ago and there was outcry across the media, across the world, many parts of the world about that. are western media companies not seeing any pushback for their engagement with saudi arabia? very, very little. and in fact, khashoggi's murder which happened exactly three years ago, came only six months after the crown prince and mbs did this major trip around new york and silicon valley and la and had dinner with all the major movie stars
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and directors and the major tech giants of silicon valley. there were enormous deals in the works. six month later, khashoggi was murdered. and there was a freeze for about a year or two. but i would say that that's pretty much behind the saudis, and you have what is now the kind of schizophrenic experience where, you know, six flags, the big amusement park company, the biggest amusement park company in the world is building a huge amusement park outside riyadh. there is a film festival about to happen, i believe next month injeddah. there is a lot going on in saudi arabia which involves western media companies, entertainment companies, and they appear to have turned the page. sanam vakilfrom chatham house, a good point to bring you in. are you surprised there is not more pushback, given what happened with khashoggi?
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i think there was this two—year lull where mbs and the kingdom receded, they tried to take a back—seat, not be so public, and work on domestic issues. so, that is what we have been sort of witnessing over this two—year period, and with the sale of newcastle, i think this is a sort of signal that people are willing to turn the page, and as vivienne described, with so many companies still looking for markets, western companies have not been very successful or able to push back on human rights issues, which in the kingdom, go beyond the brutal murder ofjamal khashoggi and also, you know, worthwhile elevating and mentioning the activists and women and journalists are detained also in the kingdom.
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but the market is hugely appealing. there is a very young population that is looking to benefit from the social liberalisation that was granted by mohammed bin salman, so there is a domestic dynamic here to the sports—washing of the media—washing that is taking place, and the soft power projection is very much tied to domestic drivers of reform in the kingdom. and of course it has broader regional and international implications as well. areeb, let me bring you in because the football was mentioned, that has been the big story this past week, the saudi—led consortium buying into united football club. areeb ullah, you're from the middle eastern eye. in all the excitable coverage about these
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new owners in football, there's actually been much less about something we have obviously noticed on the media show, because we're a media show, which is, in the end this is a media story in a sense. tell us what are bein and beoth and how that all plays into this. so bein sports is the qatari—backed sports broadcaster got the commercial rights to air premier league games and sporting events from around the world for the middle east and also a lot of the global south, for example, indonesia is a big market for bein sports. and what happened was in 2017 when there was an air, sea and land blockade imposed on qatar, which owns bein sports, what also happened, and this was imposed by saudi arabia, i might add, what also happened was bein sports was also banned inside saudi arabia. but then a few weeks later what you saw was the emergence of a new website called beoth that was being promoted by senior royal advisers
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on twitter, like saud al-qahtani, who was accused of helping orchestrate the murder ofjournalist jamal khashoggi who you mentioned earlier. and this service is offering the sports offering that bein sports was offering. including the premier league? including the premier league. bein sports caught wind of this. they realised that... they did some digging themselves, as well as the premier league, and they discovered that the signal that was being used to air these games originated not from a colombian and cuban consortium, which is what the saudis were claiming, but from saudi arabia, from a company called arabsat, whch is a company which is majority owned by who? the saudi government. and then what happened after that is the qataris, they took this case to the world trade organization to kind of get to the bottom of why this was happening, and they took saudi arabia to the wto arbitration process and the wto then ruled
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in favour of saudi arabia — sorry, not saudi arabia, qatar. and they accused saudi arabia of essentially not charging and prosecuting the people behind beoth. and this was a big deal for the premier league. this was why newcastle — that stalled that takeover. it is a massive deal for the premier league because bein�*s contract, for example, is worth roughly £500 million, and that is a lot of money for the premier league. and when the newcastle deal became public, one of the first people to condemn it and also lobby the premier league and the uk government against this deal was bein sports. but then what also happened was, in early 2021, we saw saudi arabia end its blockade on qatar. and as a result of that, what we also saw only last week was bein sports was allowed
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to air its games and its programming inside saudi arabia. right, so there we go. we should point out in this tit—for—tat in saudi arabia that saudi arabia has previously blocked the website of your title, the middle eastern eye, because of what they say are your paper's links to qatar. yeah. jim waterson, got any thoughts on this — bein, beout, newcastle? i think with all of it, it is so hard to follow if you are not sort of entwined in the regional politics and it is very, very difficult. i spent so long on this and even i struggle with it. but basically you end up with a story where the thing blocking a takeover of a premier league club appears to be more about who is paying for the television rights than about the human rights in the country that is connected to the purchases. so, we have a fit and proper persons test, but i think with all of this it comes back to — there is no better place in the world to come to than the uk if you want
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to buy an institution to improve your reputation. whether it's a football club or a media outlet, that's what we come back to. and ultimately the saudis have money on a scale that very few british investors and backers could dream of having. sanan vakilfrom chatham house, how typical is all of this — everything we have talked today about the way the gulf states use the media as a form of soft power, as jim was saying? well, as we were talking about the gulf, i think we should broaden the scope, this is not unique to saudi arabia. qatar, uae are equally involved in investing and using the media and trying to project soft power. they've got a lot of money to throw around. they do indeed, and part of the reason the multi—year rift between saudi arabia, the uae, qatarand bahrain was qatar's aljazeera media station, which was seen as an extension of the qatari government.
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it didn't provide accurate or honest reporting on regional issues, was not reflective of regional trends and realities. and one of the demands issued against qatar in the 2017 rift was that aljazeera be shut down. and so it's important to see how that sort of coverage of regional issues and of neighbouring gcc countries will change, if at all, once — now that the rift has been resolved as of january this year. and so this is very much tied to deeper dynamics of regional competition where you have these small countries, particularly the uae and qatar, trying to project power through sports, through investments in the media, through their own stations and channels, through buying football teams. and it's directed to politics back home, regional tensions, and again of course to improve their image in western countries. sanam vakil, thank you so much.
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that is us talking about gulf state franchises of british brands, but let's now turn to a massive us brand that has arrived on british shores, and if that is not a massive handbrake turn, i don't know what is. darren styles, you are the managing director and the publisher of rolling stone uk edition. what made you think that an all—american magazine would work over here right now? well, a number of factors, really. i think politically — rolling stone is fundamentally a music magazine. it has music as its core, but it has also always been political, sometimes with a small p, sometimes with a big p, and also about film and tv. and in terms of — you were talking about netflx earlier. in terms of how people consume television and music now on a volume previously unseen, the range of choice that exists. i think as a commentary piece, rolling stone, then as now, does an amazing job.
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550,000 subscribers across the us see rolling stone every month. and so i think with the way that the magazine market has changed in the uk, the music magazine market in particular — over the last year or 18 months there has been some attrition and so i think a space has opened up for a more generalist title. and so the numbers point that way and i hope i am wrong. i've got a lovely copy of it here. £6.95, comes out every two months. looking from the adverts, it is sort of aimed at quite high—end, sort of moneyed readers. it is that who you are aiming at? who is going to buy it, do you think? the average age of rolling stone reader in the states is a1, and i think that people who buy ink—on—paper magazines tend to be older, because that was the habit at the time. i think younger people get their news and
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their entertainment information now entirely digitally. but do you think you can get young people off tiktok, off youtube, to buy this? potentially yes, but our aspiration is to serve the audience that is already there. so the older audience. yes, q magazine closed last year. at the peak of its powers it was doing 200,000 copies a month. but even when it finished it was 35 to 40,000 copies a month, and for a boutique publisher of our size, that is a great proposition. if we can get anything close to that, then... it's premium price, it's on beautiful 100gsm silk matte stock. it's a coffee table proposition, and i think that suits people in that 35 to 45 age bracket particularly well. jim watterson, media editor of the guardian, i don't know if you have seen the magazine, but what are your on all this? i think anyone who is launching a new publication at the moment is a very brave person, especially a print one, so i have to wish you luck.
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he looks brave, he looks courageous. i think i would like to know how much is going to be distinctively british and how much is going to be content from the us version. because there's quite different styles between the types of publications. it is looking very british at the moment, this one. it's got paul mason, ash sarkar. well, 100% of the launch issue has been generated in the uk. there are now 15 editions of rolling stone around the world, the original us one and 1a others — australia, south korea, china, japan, argentina, colombia, and so on. and all of that content goes into a big content pool, and any licensee can take whatever they want from that pool at any point. going forward, we have a licence that allows us to take 50% of any edition from the us and then beyond that from overseas. but we have such a strong
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music market here — well, and film industry — that we'll lead on british content. vivienne, does fortune still have a print version? i'm afraid i don't know. absolutely, it has several. it has a global edition. unlike what darren was saying, we pretty much print the same magazine throughout the world, i believe — and it still does get millions of readers, as does time. so, it's not — i hear whatjim is saying. i think time used to get something like five million readers a week. it possibly gets half of that now, but it still does get, you know, in the seven figures at least. rolling stone — i guess that looking at it from an
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american kind of perspective, it has a huge name and it's known for being a kind of writers' magazine. so, very good luck, i think, is what we're all saying. i'm afraid that is all we have time for today but thank you very much to all my guests, to darren styles, to vivienne walt, areeb ullah, sanam vakil, andjim waterson. the media show will be back next week at the same time. for today, thanks for watching and goodbye. hello, good evening. quite a few parts of the country had temperatures of 18 celsius today and it's likely to get warmer tomorrow if and when the sunshine does come out. the warmer air is coming our way thanks to the winds from the south or southwest. as we've seen already, it has brought with it a lot of cloud,
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the cloud still around at the moment. this cloud here coming in from the atlantic is going to bring the next area of rain. the earlier rain and drizzle is moving away, and for a while, there could be a few breaks in the cloud. that will lead to the odd mist and fog patch, and then the thicker cloud arrives mainly across the western side of the uk to bring the rain to these areas. of course, after the warmth that we had during the day, the temperatures are going to fall very low overnight, 12—14 celsius. we start with a lot of cloud, outbreaks of rain around that could be heavy for a while over some of these western hills. as we head into the afternoon, the rain is in the north and west. it could cheer up again later across parts of northern ireland, but ahead of the rain in the afternoon, we should get some sunshine in east anglia and the southeast. and it's here temperatures could reach 20—21 celsius — more typical of early summer. even when we have a cloud or outbreaks of rain, around 17—19 celsius. still a very mild day. there's more rain in the forecast for wednesday, this time generally moving northwards across england and wales. some thundery downpours possible. either side of that, there's
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going to be some sunshine. still a mild day on wednesday, just not quite as mild as tuesday. we've got this rain arriving in the northwest of scotland. that's going to be significant because, to the north of that, there is colder air. that will push across the country through the rest of the week and the weather will feel very different. we still have a tangle of weather fronts on the scene during wednesday as we head into thursday. these are the main ones drifting down across the uk, bringing with it some showery outbreaks of rain. then those northerly winds come setting in and it's those northerly winds that will drop the temperatures as well. we've still got some outbreaks of rain to clear away from eastern parts of england on thursday. otherwise there will be some sunshine and a rash of showers, showers in the far north over the higher ground, maybe of a wintry flavour as well. it's going to be a windy day. the winds generally from the north, possibly touching gale force around some north sea coasts. that, of course, will make it feel colder, very different from what we're feeling at that moment. eight celsius the best in northern scotland, 13
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in southern england and wales.
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welcome to bbc news. our top stories: tributes to colin powell the first african—american to be appointed us secretary of state who has died at the age of 8a. yellow mckee gave the state department the very best of his leadership. his experience, his patriotism, he gave us his decency. and the state department loved him for it. let us keep silence. the british parliament - let us keep silence. the british parliament remembered one of their own paying tribute to david amess who was killed in a knife attack on friday. trump files a lawsuit against the select committee investigating the attack on congress as he tries to keep
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