Emirati minister says rise of AI can create media jobs if properly embraced

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, offered a positive outlook at Arab Media Forum

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications at the Arab Media Summit at Dubai World Trade Centre. Pawan Singh / The National
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The UAE's artificial intelligence minister on Wednesday said the rapid rise of the high-tech tool will “change the media sector”, but pledged that it would create, rather than cost jobs in the industry if fully embraced.

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for AI, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, told Dubai's Arab Media Forum that journalists who will “adopt and use AI” have nothing to fear from a fast-changing media landscape.

Mr Al Olama, who was appointed the world's first AI minister in 2017, addressed concerns that the technology could be used to manipulate public opinion, amid the spread of increasingly sophisticated deepfakes.

“AI will change the media sector in the future. It will provide big potential for the media sector,” said Mr Al Olama during a panel discussion at the event, held at Dubai World Trade Centre.

“Journalists should follow the pace of AI developments to develop their performance and take advantage from the capabilities of technology in content creation.”

The forum explored the prospect of AI systems being used to perform tasks previously performed by employees, leading to job cuts in reporting, video editing, and graphic design.

According to a Goldman Sachs report published last year, the new wave of AI systems may also affect employment markets around the world. It warned that workflow shifts triggered by these advances may result in 300 million full-time jobs being lost to automation.

“Losing jobs or creating jobs in the media sector in the future will depend on the people working in the sector. The one who adopts and uses AI tools in the job will not lose the job,” said Mr Al Olama.

“We should have a positive vision as AI will boost productivity and will create more jobs.

“We are witnessing the first phase of changing in the media sector. In the future, we can create content or script by using AI engines.”

Regulating AI

Al Olama said the UAE was among the first countries to draw up legislation to govern the proper use of AI.

“We know there is fear about the use of AI to manipulate public opinion such as in the US with the presidential election,” he said.

“In the UAE, we have advanced legislation to regulate the use of AI and prevent using AI in defaming or promoting immoral content or illegal use of AI technology.”

Mohamed Al Mulla, chief executive of Arab Media Group, which operates the Arabian Network as well as the Global Village, said the youthful demographic of the region was a vital consideration in delivering media coverage.

“About 60 per cent of the future jobs in the media sector will require digital and tech skills,” Mr Al Mulla said.

Wael BouBaker, 27, a Tunisian graduate in media and communication who is now studying for a master's degree in media in the UK, said the media is undergoing a transition from traditional forms of news gathering to a digital age.

“We are living in an era where we have a lot of conflicts and climate change problems. The problem is with fake news,” Mr BouBaker told The National.

“We are moving from mainstream media to the digital media as people can see and get their news from their phones. Digital media is the media of the future.”

He said media outlets must move with the times to ensure readers can identify fake news from the real thing.

“Media need to educate people in the way to detect fake news. Governments should raise awareness about how to spot fake news and people should know which platform to collect the real news.”

Moving with the times

The Associated Press was one of the first to use AI technology in 2014.

Its business desk began automating stories about corporate profits to free up its journalists to focus on more in-depth reporting.

According to a study the news outlet conducted, 70 per cent of respondents said they use AI for content production.

A Kuwaiti media outlet made headlines after creating a virtual news presenter using AI.

“Fedha” debuted on the Twitter account of Kuwait News, an affiliate of the Kuwait Times, last year.

Abdullah Boftain, deputy editor-in-chief for Kuwait News, told AFP news agency that the move tested AI's potential to offer “new and innovative content.”

The potential pitfalls of AI's influence were, however, made clear by a scandal involving Sports Illustrated last year.

Technology website Futurism reported that the US outlet, founded in the 1950s, had published articles generated by AI, using fake author names.

Sports Illustrated disputed the report but said an internal investigation had been launched.

The Arab Media Forum, part of the three-day Arab Media Summit, ends on Wednesday.

Updated: May 29, 2024, 4:22 PM