Posted on July 19, 2014

As Qatar continues its journey towards the achievement of a knowledge economy, its media sector is producing a new generation of journalists who are increasingly embracing multimedia convergence. Students at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) are driving this growth in expertise. And, through an ongoing series of innovative research projects, NU-Q is shedding light on rapidly evolving media consumption habits across the region.

NU-Q is a partner of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, which is a member of Qatar Foundation. In August, a team of researchers from NU-Q will present the findings of two in-depth surveys that gauge entertainment media usage habits in the Middle East during the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication 2014.

Having spent the last two years gathering data, Everette E. Dennis, Dean and CEO of NU-Q and lead principal investigator, along with co-principal investigators Justin Martin, NU-Q Assistant Professor in Residence, and Robb Wood, NU-Q’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, will continue to research the media habits and attitudes of people across the Middle East for the next three years.

“Media permeates every aspect of an economy, especially a knowledge economy, since it is developed on the enhancement of information,” says Wood. “Media enterprises are valuable to an economy, but so too is communications in general, because it is not only media companies that benefit from high-level practices.”

The project was recently awarded a US$850,000 grant, under the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP), to support its continuity until 2017. The initial findings were published in the ‘Middle East Media Use’ report in 2013 and widely reported through international media outlets. The results of the second edition of the survey were subsequently published in the ‘Entertainment Media Use in the Middle East’ report in 2014, following 6,000 face-to-face interviews in Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Awarded by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF), established by Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development in 2006, the grant will allow the team to expand the study and map habitual changes. This will, in essence, increase the value of previous findings that were presented at the International Communications Association Conference in London last year, and again in Seattle this year.

The overarching trend observed in the 2014 research is that people desire more entertainment media from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The study also finds that while they may consume and enjoy entertainment from all parts of the world, citizens of the region ultimately have a strong cultural drive reflected in their entertainment choices and desires.

Additionally, the large majority (70 per cent) agrees that more should be done to preserve cultural traditions, while two-thirds prefer to watch films that portray their own culture, and wish for more entertainment to be based on their history.

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“Any corporation or government entity has a communications department that plays a central role in that organisation’s operations, so support for the media industry has direct and indirect benefit on the growth of an economy,” he adds. “Therefore, the award of this NPRP grant to NU-Q is a demonstration that QNRF is recognising media as an important sector to invest in for the growth of a knowledge economy.”

Conducted in partnership with the Doha Film Institute, the surveys, available at, explore not only the use of entertainment media in the region, but also people's attitudes toward this media and the broader cultural environment. Special attention is given to film, television, and online and social media, as well as questions of government regulation, cultural preservation and children's media.

With both surveys delving into the specific media usage habits of people in the MENA region by revealing their top six sources of entertainment, for instance, Robb believes the harvesting of such information can have a direct impact on economic growth. This insight, he says, allows for a deeper understanding of the way information is consumed in the overall regional market, as well as in specific countries.

“For anyone with an interest in communication in any form, be it entertainment or news media, understanding the way people in the MENA market use media is fundamental to understanding the nature of the business and the practice of communication,” says Wood.

“And Qatar Foundation’s interest in supporting research that will directly impact the creation of knowledge to support the development of this region’s media sector demonstrates just how significant understanding information consumption is.”

Top six sources of entertainment in the Middle East:

  1. Watching television programmes
  2. Passing time online
  3. Watching films on television
  4. Watching video content online
  5. Listening to music
  6. Shopping for leisure