Media Perceptions, Preferences, and Practices among Young UAE Nationals

Media Perceptions, Preferences, and Practices among Young UAE Nationals

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Reporting the Truth: Media Perceptions, Preferences, and Practices among Young UAE Nationals Keith M. Urbahn Public Affairs Office Embassy of the United States of America Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates July 26, 2004 This report is research prepared for the U.S. Embassy, Abu Dhabi by Summer Intern Keith Urbahn. Observations, comments, and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of the Embassy or the Government of the United States of America.
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2 Introduction This report examines the media behaviors and opinions of young UAE nationals based on 535 surveys distributed in shopping malls and educational institutions and personal interviews with survey participants, both of which were conducted in June and July 2004. Due to time, personnel, and cultural constraints, the study falls short of being a comprehensive analysis of UAE society as a whole. Most of those surveyed were young college students of UAE nationality. Instead of attempting to gauge and analyze the media habits of UAE society as a whole, the study focuses on the survey results from 407 UAE nationals from age 18 to 25. The great majority (92%) of the 407 surveys were collected at United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain with the help of professors distributing surveys to their students. The obvious implications are that the habits and views of UAEU students strongly influence the overall results. While this is true, an analysis of the survey results of non- UAEU students in the same target group (age 18-25, UAE nationality) reveals nearly identical behavior patterns and opinions. The makeup of the survey population is not statistically derived to allow exact percentages of survey answers to be linked to the UAE national population in the same age group, but in the face of evidence supporting larger trends, broader conclusions about perceptions of the media in the UAE can be made. This report attempts to answer questions regarding popular preferences of newspapers, Internet news websites, radio and television news stations, differences in opinions about media across gender, the success of recent U.S. efforts to compete in television and radio markets with Al Hurra and Radio Sawa, and why some news sources are considered more "credible" than others. Gender Students/Other Male 197 36.8% Student 481 89.9% Female 338 63.2% Other 54 10.1% Age Home Emirate Under 18 16 3.0% Abu Dhabi 256 47.9% 18-25 467 87.3% Ajman 12 2.2% 26-33 32 6.0% Dubai 41 7.7% Over 33 12 2.2% Fujairah 61 11.4% Nationality Ras Al Khaimah 74 13.8% UAE 443 82.8% Sharjah 44 8.2% Arab (Arabic speaking) 92 17.2% Umm al Quwaiyn 6 1.1% Language Ability Arabic and English 438 81.9% Arabic Only 95 17.8% English Only 0 0.0% Characteristics of Survey Participants (Fig. 1 )
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3 The Freedom to Choose: Analyzing Preferences The United Arab Emirates is a unique country among those in the Arab world in terms of its media environment: the UAE's relative press freedom, its plethora of publications, television and radio stations, and its internet penetration rate are unmatched in the Arab Middle East. Given the freedom to choose from such a vast selection of easily accessible and varied media sources, what do young UAE nationals pick?
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