Saudi watchdog to regulate homegrown YouTube shows: newspaper


  • TECH
  • Wednesday, 23 Apr 2014

RESTRICTED: Saudi Arabia plans to regulate local companies that screen shows on YouTube, a senior official was quoted as saying in local media on Tuesday

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia plans to regulate local companies that screen shows on YouTube, a senior official was quoted as saying in local media on Tuesday — a move that could stifle its nascent creative industries. 

The kingdom is the world’s top per capita user of YouTube. Dissatisfaction over state broadcasters’ staid programming and societal restrictions have created a uniquely captive audience for web-based entertainment, in a country where nearly half the population is under 25. 

But YouTube’s popularity has now brought Saudi Arabia’s homegrown production houses under the gaze of the General Authority for Audiovisual Media, a recently formed watchdog. 

Riyadh Najm, the Authority’s president, told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat that his organisation would soon issue a manifesto to organise — or regulate — the work of YouTube channels. 

It will include rules and conditions that would be “in accordance with the nature of society and … laws in this context”, Najm said. “We are working on embracing these talents and developing their artistic and technical abilities." Licensing would help guarantee quality, he said. 

This follows a new Saudi law that defines terrorist crimes as any act that "disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state”. 

Such a broad definition reflects Saudi rulers’ unease since the 2011 Arab uprisings. The authorities have taken a far harsher line against many forms of dissent, jailing liberal reformers and religious critics on charges ranging from sedition to jeopardising state security. 

YouTube programme makers in Saudi had been able to operate without a licence because they were not actual broadcasters, with the likes of UTURN Entertainment and C3 combined attracting more than 500 million views for their various YouTube shows as of mid-September 2013. 

These production houses have been careful to avoid controversy, with subtle satire often the preferred means to critique authority. 

“Until we see the details, it’s a bit alarming, a threat for us,” said Kaswara al-Khatib, chairman and chief executive of UTURN Entertainment. "You don’t want to be controlled because the whole idea is that we want to express ourselves." 

Khatib said he had previously discussed the matter with Najm, who told him UTURN’s current output would not be prohibited, but that the sector could no longer be unregulated. 

“The whole idea is to regulate it in a way to make sure where the areas are to be played with and the areas that should not be touched,” said Khatib. 

“He seems to be supportive and understands it’s not conventional media and that online is a totally different ballgame.” 

YouTube declined to comment. — Reuters 

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
Join our Telegram channel to get our Evening Alerts and breaking news highlights
   

Next In Tech News

Google to slash amount it keeps from sales on its cloud marketplace- CNBC
Credit Agricole offers to buy auto leasing company Olinn for 100 million euros - Les Echos
U.K.'s Wise to join the New Payments Platform in Australia
Delete your Windows password: Microsoft rolls out log-in alternative
Electric cars have significantly higher repair costs, research shows
What to know: As robocalls get blocked, text messages could be next big thing for scammers
Those just-for-fun Facebook quizzes? Identity thieves might like them, too
Opinion: Media literacy the antidote to this infodemic
Google CEO sought to keep Incognito mode issues out of spotlight, lawsuit alleges
Brazil telecoms regulator says 5G auction rules to be published by Monday

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers