Global Media Execs Convene in Abu Dhabi


ABU DHABI: Disney's Andy Bird, Discovery's Mark Hollinger and Internet pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee were among the executives who spoke at the twofour54-led Abu Dhabi Media Summit in the emirate yesterday.

Berners-Lee, credited as the inventor of the worldwide web, used his keynote, delivered via satellite link, to defend whistleblowers and the need for an open Internet. “In the U.S. and the U.K. the systems of accountability have failed, only one group protects us from abuse and that is whistleblowers," he said. "Whistleblowers need special protection even if they have violated laws. We can’t trust that any system won’t go astray, however much good will, so we have to rely on the whistleblower.”
He added, “The web as an infrastructure has to be open and be a neutral platform as we have to know that when we are using the web no-one is looking over our shoulder. We have to be able to use the web with impunity. It has to be open so everyone can participate in a national and international discourse.”
Berners-Lee also spoke about the Alliance for Affordable Internet, which aims to bring low-cost Internet access to developing countries. “Only a third of humanity is connected to the web, so there is a massive digital divide between people who are connected and those who are not connected. For those who are connected it’s important that the Internet is open and it is a fair and just internet. For those who are not connected its important to help them get online as quickly as possible.”

Andy Bird, the chairman of Walt Disney International, speaking with Matthew Garrahan, Los Angeles correspondent at the Financial Times, weighed in on bite-size entertainment snacking: “Consumers used to sit and consume content by watching television or going to the movies. Now you can be at the bus stop, at the supermarket, and you can snack on media. We’ve been experimenting with what that means, especially in terms of duration."

He also spoke about the importance of local content to Disney's global operations. “Previously we were largely an export company of film and television—our content would be dubbed into the local language. Whether in China, India or UAE, it was representative of the United States Walt Disney Company. We’ve been striving to move from that position—how do we become the Chinese Walt Disney Company? What does that take? Relevancy is the key word—the world has accelerated at such a fast pace and brands have to remain culturally relevant in front of consumers."

Mark Hollinger, the outgoing president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, and Sony India's Man Jit Singh took part in the Going Global—Opportunities and Challenges in a Media Centric World session.

Singh spoke about the importance of the mobile market in India. “Short-form content will be watched on mobiles and smartphones and content for wireless will have to be different. Music and comedy clips work well. In India, the biggest use of the cell phone is to listen to music, it becomes your radio."

Both weighed in on the importance of local content. “If you can work locally and export that programming internationally, it’s a big win,” Hollinger said.