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The latest Iraqi news on developments and opportunities in communications and media from Iraq Business News

Corruption Plagues Iraqi TV, Film Industry

Corruption Plagues Iraqi TV, Film Industry

By Shukur Khilkhal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Each year, Arab TV stations compete to buy and broadcast dramatic productions from Egypt, Syria and Gulf counties. Yet, there is no demand for Iraqi drama, which is limited to local TV channels.

It is a bitter reality for the Iraqi TV and film industry, over which concerned parties are in constant disagreement.

The dilemma is complex enough to make it hard to determine the exact problem. The industry’s players blame each other for its deterioration and loss of identity, and the issue has been widely discussed in the media.

Some actors blame the producers and writers, while the writers hold the producers responsible and others blame the film directors. As for the directors, they distance themselves from this responsibility, and believe that the rest of the key parties in the TV and film industry should be held responsible for its deterioration.

During a seminar on the condition of Iraqi drama held in Damascus March 20, 2010, film director Hassan Hosni identified six reasons for the deterioration of Iraqi TV and film production that did not include directing.

Although everyone agrees that poor production is a major problem, the Al-Iraqiya TV channel, the biggest producer of Iraqi drama, seems indifferent to what is being said. In fact, it celebrates what has been achieved so far.

A number of major artists have found themselves forced to withdraw from the scene in protest, to boycott the current industry. Others preferred to emigrate and some prominent screenwriters, such as Farooq Mohammed, Hamed al-Maliki and Ahmed Hatef, stopped writing. Maliki told Al-Monitor that he has been living off his personal savings since he made this decision.

These figures’ withdrawal from the scene is not contributing to resolving the problem, but may instead exacerbate it by leaving only beginners and inexperienced people.

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$307m Bill for 3G Spectrum

$307m Bill for 3G Spectrum

By John Lee.

Iraq is reportedly seeking $307 million [358 billion Iraqi dinars] from each of the country’s three mobile phone operators for spectrum to run 3G (third-generation) services.

According to Reuters, all three operators – Zain Iraq (owned by Kuwait’s Zain), Asiacell (owned by Ooredoo) and Korek (Orange) – paid $1.25 billion each for so-called “technology-neutral” mobile licences in 2007, which means they do not require new 3G licences, but they need extra radio spectrum, or frequencies, to launch the technology.

The firms are said to be angry at the request, as the fees would only provide frequencies for the remaining eight years of their licences, and also considering that their operating costs have risen due to the fighting in the country. There would be considerable additional expenses in building a 3G network.

The operators have asked to meet with the regulator, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC), to discuss the matter.

(Source: Reuters)

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Ericsson Still Bullish on Iraq

Ericsson Still Bullish on Iraq

By John Lee.

Tarek Saadi, President of Ericsson‘s North Middle East Region, has said his company remains bullish on Iraq despite the threat of terrorism.

Speaking on the sidelines of a trade event, he said:

Iraq is one of the more important markets for Ericsson in the Middle East … We still believe in the long terms prospects of the country.

“We believe 3G [will] be a long term revenue driver to the operators and to Ericsson.”

 According to the report from Gulf News, he did however admit that his “very bullish” outlook for the country had been moderated.

The company works with all three operators in Iraq — Asiacell, Korek and Zain, with which it has a network management contract — and Saadi says its operations have not been largely affected by the increasing instability in the country.

(Source: Gulf News)

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Vizocom Wins $5m Embassy Contract

Vizocom Wins $5m Embassy Contract

By John Lee.

The General Services Office at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has awarded an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract worth nearly $5.2 million [6.1 billion Iraqi dinars] to VIZOCOM.

The contract is for the provision of “Satellite Television Channel Broadcasting, Reception and Transmission Services at the U.S. American Embassy Baghdad, the U.S. American Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, the U.S. American Consulate General Basrah, and the U.S. American Consulate General Erbil“.

A statement from the US State Department said that VIZOCOM’s was the lowest price, technically acceptable offer.

(Source: US State Dept)

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Zain Maintains Plan for IPO

Zain Maintains Plan for IPO

By Patrick M Schmidt.

Despite more than a three year delay and the current security situation in Iraq, Zain has announced that they still intend to commit to their initial public offering.

Against the backdrop of security and safety issues, Zain Iraq is today mainly focused on maintaining its network and providing much needed mobile services to our customers and the Iraqi community at large,” said a Zain spokesperson.

Currently Zain is one of two carriers who have not listed stocks on the Iraqi Stock Exchange per their network license agreements.

The two other carriers are Asiacell, a division of Ooredoo, and Korek, a division of Orange. Asiacell joined the Iraqi Stock Exchange in February 2013 and sold 25% of its shares for $1.27 billion.

(Source: Reuters)

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Asiacell Sales Decline

Asiacell Sales Decline

By John Lee.

Mobile operator Asiacell has posted an 8 percent drop in sales in the first half of 2014, due to the security situation and increased competition.

In its first half results its parent company, the Qatar-based Ooredoo, made the following statement:

Asiacell faced a growing wave of political and social instability during the period, allied to the effects of an increasingly competitive market.

“Consequently, revenue for the first half of 2014 was QAR 3,220 million (1H 2013: QAR 3,502 million), a decrease of 8%; EBITDA was down by 17% to QAR 1,544 million and EBITDA margin was also down to 48% from 53%.

“Asiacell focused on a number of cost efficiencies during the period in the face of growing competition whilst continuing its roll-out programme of network modernisation to ensure Asiacell customers continue to benefit from Iraq’s best and most reliable network.

“Consequently, Asiacell’scustomer base grew by 10.6% to 11.6 million compared to the first half of 2013. In response to the political and social situation in the country, Asiacell is monitoring the situation carefully and has a range of contingency plans in place to ensure the continued operation of the business.”

(Source: Ooredoo)

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Zain Iraq Revenues Unfrozen

Zain Iraq Revenues Unfrozen

By John Lee.

Kuwait’s Zain Group has announced that an Iraqi court has lifted a freeze on future revenue of Zain Iraq.

But the company added that previously frozen revenues remain blocked, after a $4.5 billion lawsuit against the Iraqi firm was dismissed this month.

In April, we reported that Zain was being sued for $4.5 billion over its 2007 acquisition of Iraqi telecom operator Iraqna for $1.2 billion from Egypt’s Orascom Telecom.

The company issued the following statement:

Zain Group advises that it has notified the Kuwait Capital Markets Authority (CMA) of the following:

In regard to the announcement made by Zain Group to the CMA on April 20, 2014 of lawsuits filed against Atheer Telecom (“Zain Iraq”) in Iraq by another telecommunication company operating in Iraq, Zain Group wishes to further advise the following:

  1. Regarding the first lawsuit, claim No. 1312 / B / 2013, the Court of First Instance in Iraq issued a judgment in the case on July 9, 2014 dismissing the case of the plaintiff company against both the Communications and Media Commission of Iraq (CMC) and Zain Iraq. It should be noted that this judgment is subject to appeal within fifteen days from the date of judgment.
  2. Regarding the second lawsuit, which pertains to the blocking of a certain amount of funds generated by Zain Iraq that are required to be held by a court-appointed legal administrator in an Iraqi Bank, as a consequence of the dismissal of claim No. 1312 / B / 2013 and the fact that there is no longer a legal justification for the blocking of such funds, Zain Iraq applied to have these restrictions removed. In a decision issued on Sunday, July 13, 2014, the court decided to suspend all activities of the administrator and to cease blocking any future funds until the claim in case No. 1312/B/2013 becomes final and not subject to appeal.

Zain Group remains committed to providing all stakeholders with further updates on any activities related to these lawsuits as they occur.

(Source: Zain)

(Picture: Zain Group CEO, Scott Gegenheimer)

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Chinese Hackers Target US Experts on Iraq

Chinese Hackers Target US Experts on Iraq

A sophisticated Chinese hacker group is now reported to be focusing its efforts on US policy towards Iraq.

The group, called “Deep Panda,” started targeting US policy experts and think tanks with links to Iraq on 18th June, the day that ISIS began to attack the oil refinery at Baiji.

Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder and CTO of security company CrowdStrike, told ComputerWorld that the shift made clear that the Chinese government wanted to know what policy makers thought was happening in Iraq and what military moves the U.S. might make to stabilize the situation.

China is the largest foreign investor in Iraqi oil fields, and draws about 10% of its oil imports from the country. Most of China’s oil investments, however, are in southern Iraq.

CrowdStrike, which has tracked Deep Panda for three years, believes the group either works for or is actually funded by the Chinese government.

(Source: ComputerWorld)

(Computer image via Shutterstock)

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