In Brief

Lebanon financial crisis leaves media in free fall

Once the envy of the Middle East the sector is now struggling

Lebanon's financial crisis has hit media revenues and put the industry into a dangerous downward spiral.

The country’s media industry had been the envy of the Middle East, The Guardian says, with newspapers that “set agendas”, TV stations that “tested boundaries”, and content that “challenged state narratives and tested the patience of the powerful”.

However, over the past 12 weeks, “popular radio stations have closed, newspapers have stopped paying staff, or slashed salaries, and once omnipotent TV networks have been left scrounging for foreign backers”, the newspaper says.

Nabil Bou Monsef, the deputy editor-in-chief of An-Nahar newspaper, said: “We are facing an unprecedented media crisis in Lebanon. Beirut has always been the hub for foreign and regional journalists to reside in for its strategic location and freedom of speech. It is embedded in our culture. The financial crisis we’re in has hit us hard.”

Although some of the issues facing the Lebanese media are familiar in other countries, such as the fall of traditional advertising and the abandonment of old platforms, Pierre Daher, the chairman and CEO of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, says the country has shown a peculiar unwillingness to adapt to new media models.

“Lebanon is like an ostrich, we put our head in the sand and we didn’t want to see it,” he said. “I mean, of course the government did not have this as an interest. Also they didn’t have a specialist who would look at it. This needed a national plan to do the transformation from regular media to new media.”

All this is occurring against a backdrop of a nation beset by economic problems in recent years and one that has seen an escalation in widespread corruption and economic mismanagement.

Asharq Al-awsat says the financial crisis has “greatly damaged the lifestyle of most Lebanese, who can no longer afford travel expenses, shopping and dining out”.

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