Monday, December 12, 2005

MEB vs. CABSAT in Beirut

Beirut has always been a Middle Eastern media center, but in recent years it has watched a lot of talent and money march south to the United Arab Emirates and specifically, the tax-advantaged Dubai Media City. Dubai is becoming the de facto media and publishing capital of the Middle East and hosts an annual show called CABSAT that celebrates this fact, attracting broadcast and technology heavies from around the globe.

In an attempt to counter CABSAT (although no one will say so), Beirut recently hosted a Middle Eastern satellite broadcasters' conference called, appropriately enough, the Middle East Broadcasters Show. The Lebanon Daily Star covered it and found a lack of big Western companies that are the bellwether of success. That's not surprising since MEB is in its first year, but the Star's coverage of the show indicates some reasons why Beirut's not yet ready to steal Dubai's mind-share:

Ben Davenport, the Marketing Manager of the European branch of OMNEON, a media server provider based in America, acknowledged that even though few major manufacturers attended, the Pan-Arab turnout was better than he expected, for "a first show."

"We are a company based in the U.S., and none of our colleagues would come here because of the negative connotations associated with Lebanon, but I like Lebanon. Ultimately activities around the exhibition are why its not succeeding like it could," said Davenport.

A representative of the Lebanese subsidiary of a western firm who preferred to remain anonymous, used equally euphemistic terminology, referring to a bribing incident, where a Lebanese customs official tried to charge him an exorbitant duty on his equipment, as a "logistical issue."

The "negative connotations" Davenport mentioned also include ongoing tensions with Syria and an apparent renewal of pro-Syrian killings in Lebanon, such as today's car-bomb assassination of Lebanese MP Gebran Tueni.

Shakedowns and explosions are notably lacking in the relatively clean, business-friendly United Arab Emirates, which came in 29th on Transparency International's 2004 list of least-corrupt states to Lebanon's 97th. But if violence and corruption can be tamped down further in Lebanon, Beirut will hopefully see more big multinationals next year than just Panasonic (Japan) and Apple (U.S.).

No comments:

Site Meter