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New and Old Media Collide in Saudi Twitter Radio Station

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, September 10 2013

Several Saudi bloggers have launched a weekly, two-hour long program called Radio-Twitter, which takes cues and tips from Twitter trends. Radio-Twitter emphasizes news of interest to the young and connected population in Saudi Arabia.

Essam Al-Zamil, the founder of Radio-Twitter told Arab News that Twitter "has enriched a sense of collective thought" and is an essential source for journalists, as well as the best medium for delivering news and engaging listeners in a dialogue. He created the radio station because he felt most people could not keep pace with the torrent of Twitter news. His radio show will therefore allow users to hear about the latest Twitter trends.

Al-Zamil was identified by a fellow blogger and tweep as one of the top ten Twitter users in Saudi Arabia in 2010. He is also an online activist. In 2012, he organized an online campaign to boycott poultry consumption, after prices rose 30 to 40 percent.

On the radio show, Twitter plays an essential part before and after the broadcast. The topics of discussion are culled from trending tweets and hashtags. Then, following the broadcast, listeners are encouraged to use Twitter to discuss the topics covered on the program.

Radio-Twitter is also available in a recording after the live broadcast. More than 5,000 listeners have tuned in for some of their broadcasts, not including those who listen after the fact. The show hopes to reach 10,000 listeners.

Khaled Al-Naser is a fellow blogger and collaborator on Radio-Twitter. He thinks Radio-Twitter could be a real competitor with traditional media.

Arab News reported:

Al-Naser sees that the presence of a platform for youth to present and discuss their opinions has helped in the spreading of new ideas and the exchange of different opinions, in addition to the creation of new formulae for summarizing thoughts in ways that can be expressed to benefit individuals and the community at large.

The bloggers hope to expand Radio-Twitter to include more than one weekly broadcast, but costs are a problem.

Al-Zamil said, “If we had a steady income for the project, things would be much easier, as we would be able to hire people.”

In spite of the Grand Mufti's condemnation of Twitter as a space for clowns and corrupters, Saudi Arabia has become the most active country on Twitter in the Middle East and North Africa. Saudis makes up more than half of that region's active Twitter users.

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