Quite interesting to read the annual ArabianBusiness.com list of the 500 most powerful Arabs in the world – and it is truly amazing how many on the list have an impact on the media world and public perception. There are believed to be over 300 million Arabs worldwide – and their influence naturally spreads quite far.
While Arab wealth is well-renowned due to oil and many other resources, media isn’t an area which has traditionally received much attention as a sphere of Arab influence. Reviewing the Arabian business list, while social media has been credited with helping to spark the Arab spring, influential Arabs have a major impact on traditional media – and it’s going to grow and not go away.
Some choice powerful Arabs from the list:
• Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia ranked #1 on the list for the 9th year in the row – and the billionaire is the second-largest voting shareholder in News Corp. and a major owner of Twitter. (And the biggest growth market in the world for Twitter is Saudi Arabia.) Prince Alwaleedalso owns the Rotana Group, the largest entertainment company in the Arab world, 90% of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (the 1st private television station in Lebanon) and much more.
• The 5th most powerful Arab in the world is Twitter’s head of operations, a Jordanian named Mazen Rawashdeh. Digital media is clearly rapidly growing and not vanishing – and with a Saudi owner and Jordanian running the company, clearly Arab influence matters at Twitter and in the digital arena.
• Emad Burnat (#15) is a Palestinian Arab whose film Five Broken Cameras was nominated this year for the Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards, and won multiple awards at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. The movie has done wonders for the Palestinian issue and caused tremendous damage to Israel as a strong piece of propaganda.
• Rounding out the top 25 is Elie Khouri (#23), CEO of MENA Omnicom, one of the world’s largest advertising and marketing conglomerates. Khouri is involved with launching IKEA in Egypt, and many other brands, and is involved with a Dubai art non-profit and UAE entrepreneur programs. Also in the top 25 is Joseph Ghossoub, chairman and chief executive officer of MENA Communications Group (MENACOM), parent company of legendary worldwide advertising agency Young & Rubicam. Ghossoub is a director of Dubai Media Incorporated and has been described by Bloomberg News as “One of the Middle East communications industry’s most prominent spokespersons.”
• Owning a major PR firm, I assumed I was aware of many of the most influential people on social media – but admittedly had never before heard of the man named as the 35th most influential Arab in the world, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, who is a major commentator on the Arab world. His twitter feed (SultanAlQassemi) was named by Time Magazine as one of the “140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011,” and his reach is indeed quite far.
• Pierre Choueiri (#42) and Mohammed Al Mulla (#45) respectively own major media empires. They reach many millions worldwide – and have the power to influence policy, opinion and actions worldwide.
The editor of Arabian Business said: “Once again we have produced what we believe to be the most comprehensive guide ever to Arab influence. This list is a celebration of the great work and contribution of Arabs all over the globe.” Others in the top 500 world of interest to those in the world of media and communications include Daoud Kuttab, Hala Gorani (CNN anchor), Mona Al Marri of the Dubai Government Media Office, who has been described as a Public Relations guru, and Egypt’s Bassem Youssef, who recently attracted worldwide media attention when he was arrested.
As the description noted, the “magazine defines power as influence.” Clearly, the Arab world understands the power and importance of communications and media – and it’s something to be aware of and knowledgeable about.
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