The demand for media training in the UAE is booming, with almost 2,000 students having attended courses at the Abu Dhabi media zone twofour54.
International partners including the BBC, the Thomson Foundation and Thomson Reuters provide training at twofour54's Tadreeb academy, which offers more than 200 courses in subjects such as video journalism and social media.
More than 1,770 students have attended Tadreeb courses since the centre was launched in April 2009, a twofour54 spokesman said. About 40 per cent of those were UAE nationals.
Lord Fowler, a former UK cabinet minister and chairman of the Thomson Foundation, said there was strong demand for media training in this region.
The Thomson Foundation has helped to train journalists from newspapers such as The National and Gulf News, and the Kuwaiti news agency Kuna and Bahrain TV.
"The demand for training is very great," Lord Fowler said. "I think that that kind of training is now very much needed and very much wanted,because there is a very thriving media industry in Abu Dhabi and around."
Lord Fowler was speaking on a recent visit to Abu Dhabi, where he was accompanied by Lord Howe, a Thomson Foundation trustee who was also a UK cabinet minister under prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Abu Dhabi has "become a magnet for media companies generally", Lord Fowler said. "There is no lack of media output at the moment.
"It's very good for someone who has come from the UK to see newspapers doing as well as they are."
According to the Pan Arab Research Center (PARC), spending on newspaper advertising in the Arab world increased by 3 per cent last year from 2009. However, newspapers' share of the media market has faced a steady decline compared with other forms of media, especially television. In 2008, newspapers accounted for 41 per cent of the region's total advertising spending. Their share of advertising spending fell to just 27 per cent last year, according to PARC.
"What I think is interesting and significant here is the way that the media is developing," Lord Fowler said. "Here you have a pretty healthy newspaper industry. And that is a contrast to many parts of the world."
Before his political career, Lord Fowler worked as a journalist with The Timesin London. "Most people still take their news from television and from the newspapers … which, as an old journalist, I find rather encouraging," he said.
However, Lord Howe said that in the UK there had been "a very substantial change" in the relationship between the media and politicians. "It's become much more tense and concentrated and critical," he said.
He referred to the recent phone hacking scandal in the UK, in which the News of the World newspaper allegedly used private investigators to illegally gain access to the mobile phone messages of politicians and celebrities.
"Perhaps just at this moment, with phone hacking being so much on the agenda in the UK, perhaps Britain shouldn't actually spend too much time blowing its own trumpet about free journalism," Lord Fowler said.