LONDON: US tech giant Apple said it had stopped sales of iPhones and other products in Russia, while Ford Motor joined other automakers by suspending operations in the country.
Western nations have steadily ratcheted up sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine last week, including shutting out some Russian banks from the SWIFT global financial network.
The measures have hammered the rouble and forced the central bank to jack up interest rates, while Moscow has responded to the growing exodus of Western investors by temporarily restricting Russian asset sales by foreigners.
Russian firms, meanwhile, have felt increasingly squeezed. Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, said on Wednesday it was leaving the European market because its subsidiaries faced large cash outflows. It also said the safety of its employees and property was threatened.
Signalling there would be no let up from the West, US President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “has no idea what’s coming” as he joined European states and Canada in closing US airspace to Russian planes.
Japan Airlines, and an ANA Holdings unit said they were considering routes that avoid Russia.
With international shippers such as Maersk, Hapag Lloyd and MSC suspending bookings to and from Russia, the country has become increasingly shut out of world commerce. Sanctions are also squeezing Russia’s aviation sector.
Boeing’s said on Tuesday it was suspending operations as other aviation companies face growing European and US restrictions on dealings with Russia clients, affecting leasing planes, exporting new aircraft and providing parts.
CHORUS OF CONDEMNATION
Exxon said it would not invest in new developments in Russia and was taking steps to exit the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas venture, after similar moves to dump assets by Britain’s BP, Russia’s biggest foreign investor, and Shell Plc.
However, French firm TotalEnergies stopped short of saying it would exit Russia, only saying it would not put in new cash.
Apple, which halted sales in Russia, said it was making changes to its Maps app to protect civilians in Ukraine.
It also joined a growing chorus of Western companies openly condemning Russian actions.
“We are deeply concerned about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and stand with all of the people who are suffering as a result of the violence,” Apple said.
“We deplore Russia’s military action that violates the territorial integrity of Ukraine and endangers its people,” Exxon said, while Ford said in its condemnation: “The situation has compelled us to reassess our operations in Russia.”
Motor cycle maker Harley-Davidson Inc. suspended shipments of its bikes to Russia. Japan’s Honda Motor said it suspended shipments of cars and motorcycles, while the Nikkei newspaper reported Mazda will suspend exports of auto parts to its plant in the country.
The increasing focus of investors in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues has added pressure on companies to act swiftly in ending ties with Russia and Russian entities.
Big US technology companies said they were continuing efforts to stop Russia from taking advantage of their products.
Apple said it had blocked app downloads of some state-backed news services outside of Russia.
Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, said it had blocked mobile apps connected to Russian state-funded publisher RT from its news-related features, including the Google News search.
Google also barred RT and other Russian channels from receiving money for ads on websites, apps and YouTube videos, mirroring a move made by Facebook.
Microsoft said it would remove RT’s mobile apps from its Windows App store and ban ads on Russian state-sponsored media.
NEW YORK: Cable news viewership jumped during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Fox News Channel leading the way and CNN showing the most dramatic increases.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC collectively averaged 6.4 million viewers in prime time between the start of the war last Wednesday and Sunday night. That’s up from their January average of 4 million, the Nielsen company said.
For the full day between Wednesday and Sunday, Fox averaged 2.32 million viewers, up 64 percent from the quieter news month of January. CNN’s audience soared from 633,000 in January to 1.75 million last week, up 178 percent. MSNBC had 980,000 for its war coverage, up 51 percent over January.
Those numbers match a trend: CNN tends to have the most dramatic increases during big news events while its rivals, more focused on political talk, are steadier in the quiet periods.
In entertainment, the venerable series “Law & Order” returned last week, with 5.8 million people watching the debut of its revival last Thursday. That along with the “Chicago Fire” and its spinoffs gave the prolific producer Dick Wolf four series in Nielsen’s top 12.
CBS won the week in prime time, averaging 4.5 million viewers. ABC had 3.5 million, NBC had 3.4 million, Fox had 2 million, Univision had 1.7 million, Ion Television had 1.1 million and Telemundo had 1 million.
Fox News Channel led the cable networks with an average of 3.17 million viewers in prime time. CNN had 1.5 million, MSNBC had 1.39 million, ESPN had 1.15 million and HGTV had 1.1 million.
ABC’s “World News Tonight” won the evening news ratings race with an average of 9 million viewers last week. NBC’s “Nightly News” had 7.6 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.3 million.
For the week of Feb. 21-27, the top 20 shows in prime time, their networks and viewerships:
1. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 8.36 million.
2. “FBI,” CBS, 7.33 million.
3. “The Equalizer,” CBS, 7.18 million.
4. “Chicago Med,” NBC, 7.13 million.
5. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 6.95 million.
6. “Chicago Fire,” NBC, 6.83 million.
7. “American Idol,” ABC, 6.3 million.
8. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 6.25 million.
9. “FBI: International,” CBS, 6.13 million.
10. “Chicago PD,” NBC, 6.01 million.
11. “Ghosts,” CBS, 5.85 million.
12. “Law & Order,” NBC, 5.8 million.
13. “Jeopardy! College Championship,” ABC, 5.72 million.
14. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 5.7 million.
15. “NBC New Special Report: Russia/Ukraine Crisis,” NBC, 5.34 million.
16. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” CBS, 5.23 million.
17. “Magnum P.I.,” CBS, 5.21 million.
18. “Law & Order: SVU,” NBC, 5.15 million.
19. “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” ABC, 5.14 million.
20. “911: Lone Star,” Fox, 5.13 million.
DUBAI: Nearly 4,000 podcasts have been produced in the MENA region, according to Stefano Fallaha, the founder and CEO of marketing consultancy Podeo, who said that this number is low compared with other parts of the world.
He was one of the speakers at the recent Step Conference 2022, which attracted more than 8,000 attendees to its 10th anniversary event. The technology festival covered a wide variety of topics related to the fields of digital media, financial technology, future technologies, health and wellness, and the start-up ecosystem.
During a panel titled Podcasting Beyond the Mic, Fallaha joined Bella Ibrahim, the marketing director of Middle Eastern, female-led podcast company Kerning Cultures, and Mouin Jaber, co-host of the podcast “Sarde After Dinner,” for a discussion of the challenges facing the regional podcast industry and the opportunities that exist.
“You still have fewer than than 3,000 to 4,000 podcasts coming out of the region and out of these, maybe 10 to 20 percent are active, compared to 6 or 7 million podcasts globally,” said Fallaha.
He attributed the relatively slow growth of podcasting in the region to a lack of market maturity, a sentiment echoed by Ibrahim.
“Anytime we had a conversation, it always had to start with, ‘Do you know what a podcast is? Have you listened to one?’” she said. “For a good two years, our process with anybody who asked us what (we) do for a living was: ‘Take out your phone, look it up and listen.’”
Although a growing number of brands have been investing in podcast advertising, Ibrahim said many still need to be educated about the long-term benefits of investing in digital audio content.
The nascent state of the regional podcast industry has, however, resulted in a close-knit community rather than a more competitive arena, said Jaber.
“People are willing to help each other as part of the community; there’s no such thing as prime time or zero-sum game,” he said.
A panel discussion titled Optimizing Streaming in MENA looked beyond the audio market to video streaming and brought together Richard Fitzgerald, the CEO of Middle Eastern digital media company Augustus Media; Alaa Fadan, the co-founder and CEO of Saudi-based creative media studio Telfaz11; and Butheina Kazim, the co-founder of independent film platform Cinema Akil. They discussed the role of film producers and directors and other content creators in promoting regional content.
Highlighting the potential for growth, Fitzgerald said: “The region has the opportunity to create its own narrative. You don’t necessarily have to follow what the US is saying around streaming.”
The pandemic has accelerated the growth of media consumption and online streaming, resulting in higher numbers of subscriptions, said Fadan. Given the “optimistic predictions” for growth and viewership in the region, he added, “it’s leaning toward a very strong and very big industry, especially on the production side.”
The region’s potential is apparent not only in the growth of local streaming services but also in the interest and investment from international platforms, according to the panelists, who collectively highlighted the investment by Netflix in an Arabic remake of the 2016 Italian film “Perfect Strangers” as a success story.
Netflix already has deals in place with Telfaz11 and Saudi-based animation studio Myrkott, and Fadan said the release of “Perfect Strangers” is “just a glimpse of what’s to come, especially in the region and specifically for Saudi.”
The Step Conference 2022, which was held in partnership with Dubai Internet City (DIC), took place on Feb. 23 and 24.
DUBAI: Short-form video app TikTok has partnered with the Media Regulatory Office of the Ministry of Culture and Youth in the UAE, to launch the biggest awareness campaign of its kind.
“The campaign is part of ongoing efforts by the Media Regulatory Office, whose strategic partnerships aim to further develop digital safety and enhance security systems in the country,” said Dr. Rashid Khalfan Al-Nuaimi, executive director of the Media Regulatory Office.
“Such initiatives strive to provide safe environments for all internet and different platform users, especially the youth,” he added.
The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness of dangerous challenges on the internet, as well as other dangers associated with digital platforms.
The campaign consists of a series of videos in multiple languages, featuring a selection of content creators that shed light on the challenges of the digital world, and the importance of safe internet usage.
These include Abdullah Hattawi, who has been part of the Dubai Police stunt team, TV and social media personality Azza Zarour, and entrepreneur and influencer Karen Wazen.
Each creator focuses on a different aspect of internet safety. Hattawi focuses on safely creating stunt videos with his teammates, who are professional athletes; Zarour shares best practices of participating in challenges in a fun and safe way; and Wazen talks about the importance of having an open dialogue with children and teenagers.
The campaign is in line with other initiatives announced last month including the launch of the region’s first Safety Advisory Council.
“While dangerous challenges and hoaxes are an industry-wide challenge, we at TikTok share the interests of parents and caregivers in this mission, which is why we are committed to working with external experts to inform our work,” said Farah Tukan, head of public policy for TikTok in the Middle East, Turkey, Africa and Pakistan.
DUBAI: Etisalat is the world’s strongest telecoms brand, according to Brand Finance’s latest Telecoms 150 ranking for 2022.
The score was determined based on various metrics such as marketing investment, stakeholder equity and business performance. Etisalat’s brand value increased by 18 percent this year to $10.1 billion, making it the world’s strongest telecoms brand and the strongest brand in the Middle East and Africa across all industry sectors.
David Haigh, chairman and CEO of Brand Finance, said in a statement: “Etisalat’s brand strength is driven by product innovation and delivering on customer needs. Delivering the fastest mobile network in the world is a massive achievement by Etisalat, and their core stakeholders recognize the brand’s ability to deliver impressive performance.”
Expo 2020 offered Etisalat the platform to demonstrate itself as a strategic enabler of the digital transformation taking place in the UAE.
Its focus on enhancing customer experience along with it being a key driver of digital transformation in the Emirates helped it break into the list of the top global brands, the company said.
Etisalat recently announced a new group identity, e&. The rebrand is aimed at marking Etisalat’s transformation into a global technology and investment conglomerate.
“The transformation of e& from a telecom company founded more than four decades ago in the UAE into a global influence in digitalization highlights its role in upholding the UAE’s sustainable economic development and diversification plans,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the UAE and minister of presidential affairs, who launched the new identity.
In the overall rankings, Etisalat maintained its position at No. 15. Saudi-based STC dropped by one position to 14 this year but was named the most valuable brand in the Middle East.
Moov, which is part of the e& group, was the second-fastest growing telecoms brand. This year marked its first entry on the ranking following a 104 percent increase in brand value to $453 million.
The surge in brand value is connected to its rebrand last year from Maroc Telecom to Moov Africa. As a beneficiary of the broader e& portfolio, Moov is delivering significant expertise into relatively small markets using the expertise of global leaders in the UAE, enabling it to grow quickly, according to Brand Finance.
Globally, Verizon topped the list as the most valuable telecoms brand, while Deutsche Telekom moved up one spot coming in second, pushing AT&T down to the third position.
MOSCOW: A Russian radio station critical of the Kremlin was taken off the airwaves on Tuesday, its chief editor said and the Associated Press confirmed, after authorities threatened to shut it down over the coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The move against Echo Moskvy, one of Russia’s oldest radio stations, comes amid growing pressure on Russia’s independent media to follow the Kremlin’s official line while covering the invasion of Ukraine.
Officials also threatened to block Dozhd, Russia’s top independent TV channel. The Prosecutor General’s office accused the two media outlets of spreading content that incites extremist activities, as well as “false information regarding the actions of Russian military personnel as part of a special operation” in Ukraine.
Shortly after Moscow invaded Ukraine on Thursday, Russian officials threatened independent media with closure if their coverage of the attack deviated from the official narrative, including describing the assault as an “invasion” or a “war.”
The website of the Current Time, a Russian TV channel launched by the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that also has been critical of the Kremlin, became unavailable Sunday after the channel reported receiving a notification from the authorities.