Al Bayan moves from AMG to DMI

Editor claims staff cheered at the news the country's oldest Arabic-language newspaper will return to company that owned it previously.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai - Jul 15 - 2009 : The preparation of the cooking show " Hany Wafia " by Sama Dubai channel at Dubai Media. ( Jaime Puebla / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  JP Dubai TV 01.jpg
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The oldest Arabic-language newspaper in the country, Al Bayan, has been moved from Arab Media Group (AMG) to Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI) by decree of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The move, which returned the newspaper to the owner that it had before the formation of AMG in 2005, was cheered by the publication's management and most of the roughly 300 staff, according to Da'en Shahine, the editor-in-chief of Al Bayan.

"Before, when we were with AMG, Al Bayan had some administrative problems," he said. "Now, because this new umbrella will give me full capacity to work on my decisions, I am more free than before. So this is one of our main gains." As an example, he said that hiring decisions under AMG could take several months to be approved by senior management, a situation he did not expect to encounter under DMI.

"Every unit [at DMI] has its executive minister," he said. "He does what he wants, he has his own budget and staff. At AMG, it is centralised. It is not for the editor to do what he wants to do." Al Bayan, which was founded in 1980, had often chafed at its position as a member of AMG, the massive media group that was founded under the government-affiliated TECOM to create a more modern and privatised way of managing Dubai's media assets, according to sources in the industry.

They said the power struggles were made worse by the fact that Al Bayan's advertising sales were sometimes seen as propping up AMG's entire Al Awraq Publishing division, which also included Emirates Business 24/7 and its Arabic-language sister tabloid, Emarat Al Youm. The broadsheet has never moved from the offices it has occupied alongside Sheikh Zayed Road, although it did hand over its printing and distribution functions to AMG's printing operation, Masar Printing Press, and its logistics and distribution company, Tawseel.

It remains to be decided where the paper will now be printed. "The printing is in Masar, which is belonging to AMG," Mr Shahine said. "We don't know if it is going to stay like that or be shifted to Al Bayan, because the printing machines belonged to Al Bayan before AMG came into being." No layoffs will come from the shift, and Al Bayan is currently hiring staff. "We have to recruit so many because we lack some reporters and some editing staff," Mr Shahine said.

The newspaper will also bring along its advertising sales staff in the move. At one point, AMG was planning to move its two other newspapers into the Al Bayan building to occupy the space where the printing press formerly was, but Mr Shahine said this had not happened yet and he was not sure if it still would. Neither AMG nor DMI could be reached for comment. With the obvious synergies in printing and distribution that AMG's three newspapers shared when part of the same company, many media watchers were puzzled by the decision to move Al Bayan to DMI, which today has only television properties, including Dubai TV, Sama Dubai, Dubai One, Dubai Sports Channel and Dubai Racing. Several others saw the shift as a big blow to AMG.

The media conglomerate, which has holdings in print, radio, television, outdoor, digital, ticket sales and communications, was hit hard by the slump in the advertising market caused by the recession, and had to lay off several hundred workers earlier this year.