Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency

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Kerning Cultures Network team (L to R): Paul Alouf, associate sound designer, Alma Antabli, producer and editor, Shahd Bani Odeh, senior editor and host of Bhob, Hebah Fisher, CEO and co-founder, and Ahmed Ashour, associate producer. (Supplied)
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Hebah Fisher, CEO and co-founder, Kerning Cultures Network. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 March 2022

Kerning Cultures Network signs with Creative Artists Agency

  • Company is first podcast platform in MENA region to team up with Hollywood-based agency
  • Move ‘marks a huge milestone for our industry,’ CEO says

DUBAI: Kerning Cultures Network has become the first podcast platform from the MENA region to sign with Creative Artists Agency, the leading entertainment and sports agency.

Founded in 2015, Kerning Cultures produces immersive Arabic and English podcasts, reaching audiences across the Middle East and the U.S. It is one of the largest podcast networks in the region, known for producing shows such as “B’Hob (With Love)” — which was named Apple Podcasts’ 2020 show of the year in the Arab World category — “Al Empire” and the eponymous “Kerning Cultures.”

“As the first MENA podcast company to sign with the leading Hollywood talent agency, this marks a huge milestone for our industry,” co-founder and CEO Hebah Fisher told Arab News.

“It signals an increased demand for Arab stories to be heard internationally and, of course, is a testament to the quality of the storytelling that Kerning Cultures Network produces.”

The conversation between the two companies began over a year ago. CAA represented a creator Kerning Cultures had partnered with to create, write and direct its first fiction series “Saqr’s Eclipse.”

“We designed this podcast with the intention to adapt it to TV in the future, and so we started those conversations early with CAA about this as an opportunity,” explained Fisher and Bella Ibrahim, the company’s marketing director.

“As time went on, our conversation expanded to include more Kerning Cultures Network shows and we are excited to partner officially with CAA as our talent agency,” they said.

The two companies will work together to find opportunities to adapt existing podcast intellectual property for motion pictures and books, as well as breaking into global markets.

The network has 13 original Arabic and English shows that top the charts across the region. Most of them are narrative stories that can be easily adapted to other formats, according to Fisher and Ibrahim.

They said the company was modeling itself on the likes of Wondery, The American Life and Gimlet Media, which have had their podcasts spun into TV shows and movies.

“We hope you’ll be seeing our stories on Netflix, Shahid and Amazon soon,” Fisher said.

For now, however, the network’s Ramadan lineup includes fan favorites such as “Sukoun,” a 30-day, short, guided Arabic meditation series; “Kerning Cultures,” an English documentary podcast that uncovers stories from the MENA region; and “A Superbly Scientific Podcast” hosted by YouTube creator Ahmed Samir.

During Ramadan the network will also release “Kuzbara,” a new Arabic-language show about food and the memories surrounding it, with guests like Chef Orfali and Faraj’s Kitchen.

Later in the year, Kerning Cultures Network will launch a new season of “Al Empire,” an English podcast that has featured successful Arabs like Bassem Youssef and Dina Shihabi, as well as shows that will see it venture into new genres like music and children’s stories.


Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

Updated 07 October 2022

Saudi advertising agency wins big at Cresta Awards 

  • Leo Burnett Riyadh picks up 10 prizes for its work for client Ikea
  • Middle East region collects 36 awards at event to celebrate creativity in advertising and marketing

DUBAI: Leo Burnett Riyadh was the big winner at this year’s Cresta Awards ceremony, an annual event held to recognize creativity in advertising and marketing.

The agency collected five silver and five bronze awards in various categories — including Print Craft, Print and Out-of-Home, and The Media Magic Award — for its campaigns for client Ikea.

The Middle East region as a whole won 36 awards in the competition, which saw entries from more than 70 countries.

A total of 347 entries were shortlisted, of which 58 were from the Middle East.

The UAE was also a big winner thanks to its push toward digitization and innovation.

The UAE Government Media Office picked up two silver and seven bronze awards for its three campaigns: “The Donation Plate,” which promotes the “100 Million Meals” scheme, “The Warm Winter Livestream” tourism campaign and “The Visitor from the Future” for the Dubai Museum of the Future.

Advertising agency Saatchi and Saatchi MEA won one gold, one silver and four bronze awards for its “Empty Plates” campaign for the UAE Government Media Office.

Horizon FCB Dubai picked up four gold, two silver and two bronze awards for its “Breakchains with Blockchain” campaign for the Children of Female Prisoners’ Association.

In Egypt, thousands of women are sent to prison every year for being unable to repay loans often worth only a few hundred dollars.

Working with global artists, Horizon FCB and the association created non-fungible tokens, each designed to tell the story of a woman sent to prison and priced at the amount it would cost to free her.

Among the other winners were Impact BBDO Dubai, which picked up a Grand Prix in the Print and OOH category and a gold award in the Ambient and Experiential category for its “The Elections Edition” campaign for Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar.

The Film House Doha won a bronze award in the Brand Content category for its “Unparalleled” campaign.

Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group

Updated 06 October 2022

Prince Harry launches legal action against UK media group

  • ANL, also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, said on Thursday it "utterly and unambiguously" rejected the allegations
  • There have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of Britain's phone-hacking scandal

LONDON: Britain’s Prince Harry and singer Elton John are among six public figures suing the publisher of the Daily Mail over alleged unlawful information-gathering at its titles.
The others taking part in the legal action are actresses Liz Hurley and Sadie Frost, John’s husband David Furnish and Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murder victim Stephen Lawrence, the domestic PA news agency said in a report.
The six had “become aware of compelling and highly distressing evidence that they have been the victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by Associated Newspapers Limited (ANL), a statement by law firm Hamlins acting for the group said.
ANL, also the publisher of The Mail On Sunday and MailOnline, said on Thursday it “utterly and unambiguously” rejected the allegations.
Lawrence, whose son was killed in a racially-motivated attack in south London in 1993, had also lodged a claim against Rupert Murdoch-owned News Group Newspapers, publisher of various titles including The Sun and the now-defunct News Of The World.
The details of that claim are not known, but it is understood also to relate to misuse of private information.
The statement about the legal action against ANL released by Hamlins claimed that the unlawful acts alleged to have taken place included the hiring of private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes and the recording of private phone conversations.
It also alleged that payments were made to police “with corrupt links to private investigators” for sensitive information, that medical information was “obtained by deception” and that bank accounts and financial information was accessed “through illicit means and manipulation.”
Hamlins is representing Harry and Frost, while the other claimants are represented by law firm Gunnercooke.
There have been a number of damages claims over unlawful activity at newspapers in the wake of Britain’s phone-hacking scandal.
That resulted in the closure of the Murdoch-owned News of the World.
While most of those claims have now been settled, this is the first claim to be brought against ANL.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) settled claims relating to the News Of The World, while never admitting any liability over claims made in relation to The Sun.
Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) has settled claims relating to its titles, including The People and The Sunday Mirror.
Both publishers are currently facing further claims, and have recently made attempts to bring the long-running litigation to an end.
A spokesman for Associated Newspapers said it “utterly and unambiguously” refuted “these preposterous smears which appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone hacking scandal concerning articles up to 30 years old.
“These unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims, based on no credible evidence, appear to be simply a fishing expedition by claimants and their lawyers, some of whom have already pursued cases elsewhere.”

Google’s Russian subsidiary files lawsuit against state bailiffs

Updated 06 October 2022

Google’s Russian subsidiary files lawsuit against state bailiffs

  • Company's subsidiary filed for bankruptcy in June following the seizure of its bank account by authorities

MOSCOW: Google’s Russian subsidiary has filed a lawsuit against Russian state bailiffs, court documents show, in a year that has seen the unit file for bankruptcy in Russia and have more than 7.7 billion roubles ($127 million) in funds seized.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google declined to comment.
In May, Russian bailiffs seized funds from Google that it had been ordered to pay late last year. A month earlier, Tsargrad, a Russian Orthodox television channel blocked by YouTube, said bailiffs had seized 1 billion roubles from Google.
Google’s subsidiary filed for bankruptcy in June after saying that authorities had seized its bank account, making it impossible to pay staff and vendors.
Court documents published on Oct. 4 showed the Moscow Arbitration Court had accepted an application from Google LLC dated Sept. 30 and would consider the case.
The court listed the Moscow department of Russia’s Federal Bailiffs Service and one of its senior officials as the defendants.
Russia’s Federal Bailiffs Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The RIA news agency reported in August that the same Moscow court had rejected Google’s demand that the 1 billion roubles seized in the Tsargrad case be returned, with the TV channel still unable to access all Google services.
Tsargrad TV is owned by businessman Konstantin Malofeev, who was sanctioned by the United States and European Union in 2014 over accusations that he funded pro-Moscow separatists fighting in Ukraine, something he denies. Russia considers such Western sanctions illegal.
Tsargrad TV had no immediate comment.

Musk, Twitter could reach deal to end court battle, close buyout soon

Updated 06 October 2022

Musk, Twitter could reach deal to end court battle, close buyout soon

  • Billionaire, after a surprising U-turn on Monday, pledged to finish his proposed $44 billion takeover of Twitter

WILMINGTON: Elon Musk and Twitter Inc. may reach an agreement to end their litigation in coming days, clearing the way for the world’s richest person to close his $44 billion deal for the social media firm, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Musk, who is also chief executive officer of electric car maker Tesla Inc, proposed to Twitter late on Monday he would change course and abide by his April agreement to buy the company for $54.20 per share, if Twitter dropped its litigation against him.
In their effort to end the litigation, the two sides agreed to postpone the billionaire’s deposition in court scheduled for Thursday, the source said on Wednesday, but negotiations are continuing with a full resolution expected to take more time.
However, Twitter’s legal team was yet to accept any agreement and Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, the judge on Delaware’s Court of Chancery, earlier in the day said she was preparing for the looming trial.
“The parties have not filed a stipulation to stay this action, nor has any party moved for a stay. I, therefore, continue to press on toward our trial set to begin on Oct. 17, 2022,” McCormick wrote in a Wednesday court filing.
Musk’s proposal on Monday included a condition that the deal closing was pending the receipt of debt financing. The potential agreement would likely remove that condition, said the source, who requested anonymity as the discussions are confidential.
Twitter’s legal team and lawyers for Musk updated the judge on Tuesday with their attempts to overcome mutual distrust and find a process for closing the deal.
Two firms that were interested in partly financing the deal, Apollo Global Management Inc. and Sixth Street Partners, had ended talks to provide up to a combined $1 billion, two sources told Reuters.
An attorney representing a proposed class action against Musk on behalf of Twitter shareholders said in a letter to McCormick that Musk should be required to make a “substantial deposit” in case he again reneges on his commitment to close. He should also be liable for interest delaying the closing of the deal, said the letter from attorney Michael Hanrahan.
Representatives of Musk and Twitter held several unsuccessful talks in recent weeks about a possible price cut to his $44 billion deal to buy the social media platform before he reversed course on Monday, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
Musk initially sought a discount of as much as 30 percent, according to the report, which was later narrowed to about 10 percent and ultimately rejected by Twitter.
It is not clear what led the Musk legal team to offer to settle, but his scheduled deposition on Thursday in Austin, Texas, was expected to include some tough questioning, which could have given Twitter leverage in talks to close the deal.
Shares of Twitter closed 1.3 percent lower at $51.30 on Wednesday. The stock on Tuesday hit its highest level since Musk and Twitter agreed in April that he would buy the company for $54.20 per share.
Tesla stock ended down 3.5 percent on Wednesday as investors worry that Musk may have to sell more shares in the electric carmaker to fund the Twitter deal and that Twitter could be a distraction for the entrepreneur.
Musk sold $15.4 billion worth of Tesla stock this year, but analysts said he may have to raise an additional $2 billion to $3 billion provided that the rest of his financing remains unchanged.
Musk said in July he was walking away from the takeover agreement because he discovered Twitter had allegedly misled him about the amount of fake accounts, among other claims.
Part of Musk’s case was based on allegations by Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko that became public in August, and Musk’s legal team on Wednesday rejected the idea that they had inappropriate talks with Zatko or spoken with him before his concerns became public.
Twitter’s legal team has wanted to investigate if Alex Spiro, a lawyer from legal firm Quinn Emanuel, who has led the case for Musk, communicated with the whistleblower as early as May.
Twitter lawyers were suspicious that Zatko sent an anonymous May 6 email to Spiro. The sender claimed to be a former Twitter employee, offered information about the company and suggested communicating by alternate means.
Spiro said in a filing with the court on Wednesday he never read the email until Twitter brought it to his attention and it appeared to be someone seeking a job. Spiro also said he was unaware of the existence of Zatko’s allegations before they became public on Aug. 23.

Myanmar court hands Japanese journalist 10-year prison term

Updated 06 October 2022

Myanmar court hands Japanese journalist 10-year prison term

  • Toru Kubota was arrested after filming an anti-government protest in July
  • Incitement is a catch-all political law covering activities deemed to cause unrest

BANGKOK: A court in military-ruled Myanmar has handed a 10-year prison sentence to a Japanese journalist who was arrested after filming an anti-government protest in July, a Japanese diplomat said Thursday.
Tetsuo Kitada, deputy chief of mission of the Japanese Embassy, said Toru Kubota was sentenced Wednesday to seven years for violating the electronic transactions law and three years for incitement, which would be served concurrently.
The electronic transactions law covers offenses that involve spreading false or provocative information. Incitement is a catch-all political law covering activities deemed to cause unrest.
Kubota was arrested on July 30 by plainclothes police in Yangon, the country’s largest city, after taking photos and videos of a flash protest against Myanmar’s 2021 takeover by the military.