The role of media in an ever-evolving global society came into sharp focus even as new technology such as artificial intelligence featured prominently at the second Global Media Congress in Abu Dhabi, last week.
Over 172 countries were represented with 23,924 participants from diverse sectors discussing the future of media amid proliferation of deep fake news and the growing influence of social media. Fidelity to facts, truth and providing solutions to myriad challenges facing audiences and readers stood out as the lifeline for journalism.
The three-day summit under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court, was marked by compelling speeches, insightful panel discussions and exclusive interviews seeking to integrate innovation and business growth in the media landscape.
Emirates News Agency (WAM) Director-General and chairman of the organising committee Mohammed Jalal Al Rayssi set the ball rolling. He said the annual congress had gathered leaders, decision-makers and executives from renowned media institutions around the world to shape the future of a rapidly changing industry.
“Through coordinated efforts and productive exchange of creative concepts and breakthrough technological solutions, we have further consolidated the UAE's position as a key global hub for advancing future of the media industry and setting the groundwork to serve the world's economies and societies,” he told participants.
Will AI technology such as ChatGPT replace storytelling and render journalists jobless in the near future? Mr Al Rayssi does not think so, but says such emerging systems will make work easier for journalists and ease the burden of delivering news and information to audiences.
“Story-writing skills will always be needed, and a human being will take the lead, but with such technology, gathering of data and information will become easier. Still, consumers will get information easily. For instance, why read the news while you can listen to it in your car, at home relaxing or at work?” he posed.
The ingenuity on display exemplified the congress’s focus on unlocking the potential of new talent in the media sector. There was the Innovation Stage, NexTech and Future Media Lab, to explore education and AI as key drivers of the sector's future.
On whether the Kenyan media is ready to embrace new technology such as AI, Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omwoyo revealed that majority of media houses already have the equipment and it is up to them to isolate what they need and can utilise now.
“We must embrace the opportunities and challenges posed by artificial intelligence and emerging technologies, and the earlier we do it the better. Kenyan media houses must utilise the entire food chain offered by new technology. We already have the hardware to do this and it is now time to deploy the software to ensure success,” he said.
Mr Omwoyo also challenged media houses to forge collaborations locally and globally to thrive in the new world order.
“The traditional competition among media houses of who goes to the market with the news first, getting a scoop and such contests will not be helpful going forward. The media must be ready to share personnel, share information and resources to make an impact in today’s dynamic society,” he said in a panel discussion.
Emerging challenges such as climate change also featured prominently with ADNEC Group Managing Director Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri challenging journalists to take a leading role in informing the world of the phenomenon and championing for solutions.
“The media has potential to highlight key environmental and climate change issues and help drive real change to protect global ecosystems. The congress offered a forum for media leaders, journalists, creatives and activists to tackle one of the most critical issues facing this generation and those to come,” he said.
Mr Humaid also emphasised need for collaborations and deliberate involvement of the youth in shaping the future of journalism.
“Through fostering innovation and collaboration in the media industry, we are also equipping the next generation to play their full part as creators and entrepreneurs. In bringing together such a diverse array of thought leaders and experts with our youth, the congress is not just a platform for dialogue, but also a catalyst for imaginative new ideas and practices,” he said.
Technical University of Kenya student Erick Macharia, who was among media students attending the congress, termed the experience an eye-opener and helpful in his future endeavours.
“We are content creators and the technology on display was very relevant to us. The engagement with practising journalists from the globe will help us think creatively and launch our own fulfilling careers in the media,” he said.
During the congress, Emirates News Agency signed collaboration agreements with media agencies on news exchange and training opportunities for young upcoming journalists across the globe.