The National Media Council (NMC) has unveiled a set of regulations for electronic media, which govern all online activities, including e-commerce; publishing and selling of print, video, and audio material; as well as advertising.
The new guidelines apply to news websites, electronic publishing outlets, and on-demand printing, including commercial activities conducted through social media within the UAE. The NMC released the new directives in a media briefing held today. The session was led by NMC Director General His Excellency Mansour Ibrahim Al Mansouri, and Dr Rashid Al Nuaimi, the Council's Executive Director of Media Affairs.
The regulations seek, first and foremost, to help the UAE media sector remain on top of the rapid developments in electronic media, in addition to enriching and organising digital content, and ensuring that media material respects the religious, cultural and social values of the UAE, all the while promoting freedom of expression and constructive dialogue. The new code of practice provides balanced and responsible media content that respects the privacy of individuals, and protects the public – especially children – from negative or harmful material.
"The new regulations are part of the Council's plan to promote and develop an advanced legislative and regulatory environment for the UAE media sector, keeping it up-to-speed with regards to all technological developments that have transformed media in recent times." H.E. Al Mansouri said. "Today, electronic media has become a highly influential and widespread tool; it is imperative that we enhance its reliability. Digital media is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the Middle East, especially videos, games and e-books. Regulating this sector will attract new global investments, which, in turn, will improve its development and competitiveness."
The NMC Director General went on to note that the new guidelines seek to enhance the contribution of electronic media to the wider publishing industry, providing legal protection for the outlets and enhancing their competitiveness, all in an effort to increase advertising spend and grow the sector as a whole.
The new regulations adhere to the Terms of Reference of the National Media Council No. 11 of 2016, and align with the outcomes of the Future of Media Retreat, held by the Council in February. The retreat had highlighted the need to enact legislation to regulate electronic media activities, and to motivate electronic media outlets to play their role in developing diverse and responsible content that can contribute to the dissemination of the UAE's narrative.
Websites of licensed traditional media (i.e. television, radio, newspapers and magazines) fall under the provisions of this regulation and, thus, do not need to secure new licences. The websites of government, universities and schools are excluded from the system, H.E. Al Mansouri reaffirmed, calling on all concerned bodies to follow the licensing procedures in accordance with the provisions of the law before June 1, 2018. The Council cautioned, however, that all electronic media activities, whether covered by the provisions of the regulations or not, are necessarily subject to the principles and standards of governing media content in the country.
In the same vein, the National Media Council had issued the age classification regulations for media content, which require relevant authorities to classify publications, electronic games, films and other artworks according to the appropriate age group, in order to preserve the UAE's social values and its cultural heritage, and protect its children from any negative influences.