The curious case of the Dubai TV station which was fined for not airing an interview

Lights, camera, and no action! The Dubai-based station was found to be acting unprofessionally by a Dubai court for not showing an interview, and fined 100,000 Dirhams for its improper conduct (image source:

Are you looking for a bizarre story to start off the year? If so, you’re in luck. Dubai’s English-language newspaper Emirates 24/7 reported on the case of a Dubai TV station which was fined over 25 thousand dollars for not airing an interview. Yes, you read it right. The station was fined by a court in the Emirate for not broadcasting a pre-recorded interview. You can read excerpts below.

A well-known guest won a court case and was compensated Dh100,000 by Dubai Court from a TV channel which did not broadcast his interview. A person sued a satellite channel after it hosted him in one of its programmes and did not broadcast the episode after broadcasting advertisement on the channel of his interview and instead broadcasting the interview of a different person.

The plaintiff said that the TV channel approached him for an interview and sent him air tickets and booked him into a hotel. It also recorded an interview with him and said that it will be broadcasted on a particular date.

The plaintiff added that on that day, the TV channel announced that the interview would be broadcasted at a particular time. However, on that time, the TV channel aired an interview with a different person and did not show his interview.

The plaintiff added that he got in touch with the TV channel and tried to find out their reason for not airing his interview, but the TV channel did not give him any answer.

He also said that he requested the TV channel to make an apology for not showing his interview, but there was no response from them.

This, according to the plaintiff, affected him and caused moral damages to him and he filed a lawsuit against the channel before the Dubai Court to compel the TV channel to pay him half-a- million dirhams.

The Dubai Court of First Instances ruled in favour of the plaintiff and that he was eligible of Dh100,000 as compensation for his subsequent psychological and moral damages.

According to Emirates 24/7 the case was reviewed by both the Court of Appeal as well as the the Court of Cassation. The Court of Cassation said in its ruling that the TV channel was guilty of misconduct, and that the station had failed to comply with professional ethics as well as the Press Code of Ethics.

The report doesn’t refer to a specific code of ethics document; in 2007 the UAE media adopted a code of conduct. However, this agreement was based on principles such as respect for the truth, freedom and integrity, fairness to all, transparency, rightful acquisition of information, accuracy in reporting, elimination or minimizing harm, especially in relation to children, credibility in reporting, and respect for personal privacy. The agreement did not seem to be a binding legal contract, and there is no mention of a scenario such as the one above in the reporting on the code of conduct.

I have to hold my hands up and say I’m dumbstruck by this news. For a legal professional to pass judgement on what is essentially a business decision by a news outlet is illogical. The channel did not breach any laws, and it is the right of any media outlet to decide what does construe and what does not construe news. The plaintiff was not out of pocket as his expenses were paid for. His only loss was his time.

The above sets a dangerous precedent for both the media and communicators in the region. While I’m all in favor of professional behaviour for journalists, I also understand and support the right of media outlets to air or publish news as they see fit. The judiciary stepping in to penalize media outlets for simply doing their job is a dangerous precedent for all of us. This is one precedent that I hope is not considered again in any repeated legislation.

Reputational Issues and the Pressure from Outside to Change – Will the Gulf’s Firms Be Forced to Adopt More Worker-Friendly Policies

Smile for the media! Will Gulf-based airlines be forced to change their employment practices or will they risk possible reputational damage in the face of criticism from the foreign press? (image source:

First there was Qatar and now the UAE. I’m not talking GDPs, economic growth or any other metric that a government may promote in the public spotlight. Rather, I’m talking about media criticism, notably international media criticism of worker rights.

Over the past couple of weeks a series of articles have been written, mainly by the European media, critiquing the lack of rights for employees of Qatar Airways and Emirates. The pieces, in particular a lengthy series of allegations in Swedish newspaper Expressen, have shone a light on employment practices, many of which appear distasteful to those not used to working or living in the Gulf.

The article in Expressen entitled the Truth About the Luxury of Qatar Airways details the conditions under which Qatar Airways employees have to live. The report, which can be read here, tells of strict curfew times for air hostesses and pilots, constant surveillance, and instant terminations.

Others have run similar allegations. Even locally, we’re beginning to see these articles appear in the press; Arabian Business recently ran two pieces on the HR practices of both Qatar Airways and Emirates.

With a global presence comes greater media scrutiny. Similarly, global events on your doorstep can attract negative headlines (look no further than Brazil in the run up to this year’s World Cup or even Qatar, the 2022 World Cup andthe country’s labor camps).

In a sense, I’m surprised that this hasn’t happened sooner. The region’s three big airlines are global players who aim to capture transit traffic which they shuttle through their hubs in the Gulf. Similarly, the region’s sovereign wealth funds have been snapping up brands globally for some time now, but especially in Europe where trophy assets have become a staple for SWFs in Doha and Abu Dhabi.

So, how do the airlines react? Never one to be outdone for a quote, Qatar Airways’ CEO has furiously denied all of the allegations and has instead railed at the newspapers printing the articles and called them, in effect, racist. To quote from Arabian Business:

“Like any other organisation, we terminate nonperforming employees and these are allegations made by ex-QA staff.”

“This is not against Qatar Airways but against my home country. They are throwing stones at my country for no reason at all.”

Emirates has been more low-key in their response on the claim that they mistreat female employees by firing female cabin crew who become pregnant during the first three years of their employment.

In the long-term how should the airlines respond? If they continue to deny or ignore the allegations, will they face a backlash from consumers concerned about the airlines’ reputation? What’s certain is that the headlines are not going to go away; to the contrary, the deeper you dig, the more bodies you will find. It’s going to be fascinating to see if the negative media coverage from outside the region eventually forces a change in worker policies.

This is one theme I’m going to be following with increasing interest.

Lessons in cultural misunderstandings from the Gulf

Are we more a melting pot or a basket-case of cultural groups? (picture source:

The Arabian Gulf is often called a melting pot of cultures, where diverse groups and nationalities meet, work and live together and understand one another. Every now and then, there are moments when a different reality comes to light, when it’s blindingly obvious that we still have a long way to go.

I had the pleasure of having two of those ‘cultural moments’ last Wednesday. The first was with Emirates, the national airline of Dubai. Emirates is an interesting organization, in that it’s one of the most profitable airlines in the world, is owned by the Government of Dubai, and yet most of its senior management is not from the Gulf region.

I enjoy flying Emirates, and I often receive a great service from the airline. I had to rebook both my and my wife’s ticket and pay for the difference over the phone. All went smoothly, until it came to the issue of payment. You see, the habit in the most of the Arab world, and particularly in the Gulf, is for the wife not to take her husband’s name for religious reasons. And yet, I couldn’t pay for her ticket over the phone because my surname obviously is different. The lady on the other end of the phone wasn’t an Arab, but she wasn’t the person who drew up the rules at an airline owned by an Arab government.

Cultural misunderstanding one was resolved not through explaining why my and my wife’s names were different – I did try my best – but for other reasons (I’m a Skywards airline rewards member, which solves everything over the phone). The second cultural crossed-wires was much more fun and less painful but just as much an eye-opener.

I received a message from a friend asking for information about a company I know. Here I was naively thinking he was looking for a job. Instead, he’d been asked by a parent to check up on a person at the company whom a family member had received a proposal of marriage from.

While I’m never averse to providing a job reference or to help someone in their search for the right role, I explained that I may have to draw the line on background checking someone I didn’t know to help facilitate (or not) a marriage request.

We often talk about melting pots, about coming together and living alongside others in harmony et cetera. But how much do we really know about the other? And how often does our lack of cultural awareness catch us out? With Ramadan only a few days away maybe it’s time we did more to understand each other and our diverse backgrounds?

Putting the communications cart before the horse – internal communications, Emirates and no bonuses

There’s a reason why internal communications is the base of any communications function – you need to ensure the message is understood internally before spreading that message to a public audience.

Emirates Airline had a taste of not to get things right this week after announcing its financial results for last year. The below quotes are taken from

Dubai-based Emirates Airline has posted a 52 percent increase in profits to $622m in the last financial year.

Meanwhile, Emirates Group – of which the airline is a subsidiary – posted a 34 percent increase in profits to $845m, helped by a 17 percent increase in revenues to $21.1bn.

For Emirates Airline staff, much of their potential compensation is paid in the form of bonuses which they receive if the company hits certain targets. It seems that the company however is not paying out bonuses this year. This disappointment is clearly reflected in the comments section of the Arabian Business piece which I’m posting below.

Posted by: Rajae Sunday, 12 May 2013 9:29 AM[UAE] – Uae

Emirates profit release doesn’t mean a thing to its more than 68,000 people who in d end didn’t get a single dirham share.
Two consecutive year of no bonus seem to be too unfair when all you read in the paper is of company’s soaring revenue and money generated.

Posted by: eyrocks Friday, 10 May 2013 3:44 PM[UAE] – uae

Emirates makes money because of its staff but forgets to reward them unlike FlyDubai and Etihad. Sad

Posted by: Rajae Sunday, 12 May 2013 9:28 AM[UAE] – Uae

I totally agree. Its the people thats the source of the company’s success but always been taken for granted.
Press release always seem to be so lucrative and rewarding but not a single reward thats given back to its staff. Its all blah blah blah

Posted by: May be unload factor Friday, 10 May 2013 12:28 PM[UAE] – Spain

Will the cabin crew finally get the long waited promised bonuses???

Posted by: Euro Friday, 10 May 2013 12:26 PM[UAE] – UAE

It is a very sad day for all Emirates Airline employees. Not a single dirham was shared with the men and woman working for the airline. Huge profits and nothing was given back to the staff. Zero profit share.
I am guessing Emirates is part of paying off Dubai Inc’s debt??

Someone at Emirates has had the sense to post a follow-up piece for Arabian Business stating why bonuses haven’t been paid, apparently due to targets not being met. However, wouldn’t have it been wise to have focused internally on the messaging rather than going out in the media and trumpeting the growth whilst forgetting or not focusing on how to assuage the feelings of those who have done their best to deliver on that profit, namely Emirates’ staff?

You can read the follow-up story here. I can’t wait for the comments to come rolling in.


Social media brand hijacking – Emirates and Etihad fakes and lessons for a corporate online presence

A story broke at the beginning of the month about a couple of campaigns out there in the social media universe. Both piggybacked on two of the UAE’s most established brands. Essentially, the two campaigns offered those who followed the chance to win free flights with Emirates Airline and Etihad Airways.

According to the UAE’s English-language newspaper The National which broke the story here in the UAE, the promotion launched on the picture-sharing site Instagram and stated that the first 20,000 people who would follow each account and would share the respective campaigns with a specific hashtag would receive free tickets for themselves plus one to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The Emirates Instagram account was named EMIRATESPROMOTION while the Etihad campaign ran under the hashtag #EtihadPromotion.

The branding is there, the name may be dodgy, but there's no official Emirates account. So why not believe it?

The branding is there, the name may be dodgy, but there’s no official Emirates account. So why not believe it?

Too good to be true you may think, and the campaigns were fake. That didn’t stop 10,000 people following the fake Emirates account which featured the company’s logo and photos skinned from the company’s website. I don’t know how long the fake competitions were up and running for, but both Emirates and Etihad put out statements warning people not to fall for the fake campaigns. The Emirates statement is below.

To all our fans, Emirates has three official social media channels which are:

When we launch competitions or new social media channels, you will be the first to know via our Facebook, G+ or YouTube channels and on

Thank you for your continued support

Emirates also sent a statement to the Australian website The Vine stating that “Emirates Airline does not have an official Instagram account. Any Emirates-related accounts or promotions on Instagram do not belong to us.”

Similarly, Etihad wrote on its Twitter account that “Etihad Airways has no association with any accounts or promotions (such as #EtihadPromotion) competition currently running on Instagram as we don’t have an official Instagram account yet. Thanks for checking.”

How does this concept sound to you? There’s lots of random people out there on social media, and scams and the internet aren’t mutually exclusive. So why do brands focus on some social media channels and not others? For example, both Emirates and Etihad don’t have Instagram accounts. Emirates doesn’t even have a Twitter account. Wouldn’t it be best for a brand simply to park their presence on the major social media channels (no one can do everything on social media, there’s simply too many channels and sites out there).

And this point may be even more relevant albeit off on a tangent for Emirates, which spends several hundred million dollars on sports marketing (the most recent announcement being the tie-up with Formula One). Isn’t the airline missing out through not focusing on social media? Imagine how much Emirates could achieve in brand positioning and amplifying that sports marketing spend by promoting itself through social media. As I’ve said before, technology is a wonderful leveler. It’d seem a waste not to wring every single penny in return on investment from those mega-bucks sports sponsorships.

So next time you see a promotion which is too good to be true just send a Facebook message to the airlines and ask them if they’ve gotten round in Instagram (or Twitter in Emirates’ case). And, as they say in France bon chance!

This gentleman clearly feels Emirates would benefit from more social media presence. Do you?

This gentleman clearly feels Emirates would benefit from more social media presence. Do you?

A tale of two CRMs – Emirates and Bahrain Air

A couple of days ago was a very special day. Many years back something of immense importance occurred and I popped out into this world. I’m so proud of this day that I tell each and every company that I come into contact with online through their forms pages. My favourite firms out there are the airlines, who want me to repeat my birth date each and every time I think of flying with them.

Well, that special day which only comes once a year neared and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a host of name customized emails from businesses I have dealt with reminding me it was my birthday. I’d used Bahrain Air a couple of times, most recently at the end of May in 2012. I was impressed that they’d set up the feature (it isn’t too hard to automate the process if you have a good database and e-marketing tool) and that they’d not only sent it to my own email but also my wife’s email which I’d booked for the same trip.

Thank you Bahrain Air for the kind thought!

Thank you Bahrain Air for the kind thought!

And then there was another airline, the airline which we were traveling on that very day. I first traveled on Emirates in 2003 and love the airline. However, did the good people remember this ground-breaking day? Unfortunately they didn’t, despite me reminding them every two weeks when I travel between Dubai and Bahrain. No card, no happy birthday. There was a boarding reminder however (does that count?).

Technology is a wonderful business leveler. I was impressed by an airline that is low-cost and that has a fleet of four planes. In contrast Emirates has at least 190 planes and spends ridiculous sums on marketing every year, which Bahrain Air certainly does not. That Bahrain Air was able to make an impression at such a low cost says wonders for their marketing team, unlike the good people at Emirates. Now if only they were able to offer an added incentive to travel with them, a call to action such as a small discount, I’d probably have gone and booked immediately.

As for Emirates that day, even the world-class persuasive powers of my wife weren’t enough to get us an upgrade (it’s his birthday she said with a stern voice). And to top it off, the in-flight entertainment system wasn’t working. Oh well, at least we were spared from the 15 minutes of advertising that the airline is now showing in-flight.

At least I didn’t see this on my in-flight with Emirates… (Photo credit: