The National Media Council (the NMC), the federal authority tasked with supervising all media activities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has recently issued the Electronic Media Activity Regulation Resolution (the Regulations). Under the Regulations, any individual or company carrying on 'Electronic Media activities' in the UAE is required to obtain a licence from the NMC (an Electronic Media Licence).

The Regulations apply to "all Electronic Media activities carried out within the State, including those in free zones".  Whilst the term "media activity" is not defined, the Regulations include a list of four activity types which the NMC considers to be 'Electronic Media activities' and in respect of which an Electronic Media Licence will need to be obtained.  The activities are described in the Regulations as follows:

  • "websites for trading, offering and selling of audio-visual and print material";
  • "on-demand electronic publishing and printing";
  • "specialised websites (e-advertising, news sites, etc.)"; and
  • "any electronic activity that the NMC may determine to add".

Given the broad language used in the Regulations to describe each category of 'Electronic Media activity' and, in particular, the 'catch all' reference to "any electronic activity that the NMC may determine to add", it is possible that a wide range of activities carried on in the UAE through electronic media will fall within the scope of 'Electronic Media activities' and, consequently, an Electronic Media Licence will need to be obtained in respect of such activities.

Practical considerations arising from the Regulations

The Regulations include a number of practical matters that individuals or companies which carry on 'Electronic Media activities' in the UAE should consider in relation to obtaining an Electronic Media Licence.

Application requirements

In order to obtain an Electronic Media Licence, an applicant must complete and submit the NMC's prescribed application form (and any other required forms), collate and submit the necessary items of identification documentation, and pay the applicable application fee(s).  Electronic Media Licences are valid for one year and can be renewed for subsequent periods of one year upon submission of a renewal application to the NMC and payment of the applicable renewal fee(s).

Appointment of an Administrator

Every website that is subject to an Electronic Media Licence must appoint an 'Administrator' to oversee the website's content.  The Administrator acts on the licensee's behalf before the NMC and other government and non-government entities and is responsible for the published media content, whether issued by the licensee or by a third party.  The Administrator must meet certain education, qualification and other criteria set out in the Regulations.

Obligations of licensees

The Regulations include a number of controls which licensees must comply with when carrying on 'Electronic Media activities' in the UAE, which range from monitoring advertisement content to applying and enforcing ethical principles and professional standards to maintain the quality of output.

'Electronic Media activities' via social media accounts

The Regulations provide that any person who carries on 'Electronic Media activities' through an account on a generally recognised social media platform (on a commercial basis) must obtain an Electronic Media Licence from the NMC.  The Regulations stipulate that it is the account owner who is responsible for the content published from the account.  Accordingly, it is possible that an individual in the UAE who is paid by a company to advertise or promote its brands or products through his or her social media accounts (including on platforms such as Instagram or Snapchat) will need to obtain an Electronic Media Licence from the NMC in order to continue to carry on such activities.

Timeframe to obtain an Electronic Media Licence

The Regulations provide that individuals or companies carrying on existing 'Electronic Media activities' prior to the issuance of the Regulations are to regularise their status and obtain an Electronic Media Licence within a period of three months from the effective date of the Regulations.  On that basis, we anticipate that all applicable individuals and entities will need to have obtained an Electronic Media Licence by early June 2018.  The Regulations also include a provision clarifying that traditional media websites (such as those operated by traditional television news channels, newspapers and magazines) are deemed to be licensed under the provisions of the Regulations to carry on the 'same activities' electronically.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.