What You Need to Know About the Media Regulatory Offices in UAE

Amal Khadiri

Amal Khadiri

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According to new UAE regulations, digital media creators such as bloggers and influencers must obtain licenses and third-party permits in order to operate legally. The National Media Council (NMC) is the regulatory organisation in the UAE that oversees all media-related programmes and operations, and it authorises and licenses social media influencers in Dubai and throughout the UAE. The NMC falls under the Media Regulatory Office – Ministry of Culture and Youth, and it is mandatory for anyone who receives financial compensation through their work, including advertising, reviews, or ‘product placement’ in their content, to get additional approvals from the department. Such laws apply to activities and permits in free zones as well. 

What is Media Regulation in the UAE?

In the UAE, media regulation ensures free expression, media freedom, market regulation, and public interests like media diversity. The Media Regulatory Office (MRO) oversees media activities and media-related free zones, taking over roles previously managed by the National Media Council.

Media Regulation Authorities and Laws in the UAE

In the UAE, Media Regulation Authorities handle licensing, content vetting, and violation penalties. To legally run a business, entrepreneurs must obtain necessary permits from these authorities, underscoring the importance of understanding their functions and guidelines.

UAE Federal Publications and Publishing Law of 1980

The UAE’s Federal Law No. 15 of 1980, the Publications Law, governs all content, digital or traditional. It regulates what can be published, including topics on religion, politics, national security, individual rights, and public morals. The law also details penalties for breaches, targeting publishing businesses and editors.

The National Media Council (NMC) mandated 2010 that all media institutions, spanning digital, audio, visual, and print, follow the standards set by Federal Law No (15) of 1980. In 2018, NMC introduced a system to oversee all digital and electronic media activities across the Free Zones and Mainland. This system addresses all forms of expression, from writing to photography.

The Electronic Media Regulation provides that the following activities require prior approval:

  • On-call printing and electronic publishing
  • Electronic advertisements
  • Trading, selling, printing, and showcasing audio and video content on social media and websites
  • News publishing
  • Any other activity deemed appropriate by the Council to require such approval may be added.

A new federal law regulating the media, publications and online content
NMC Licensing Laws mandate influencers in the UAE to get approval from the National Media Council (NMC) before operating. This includes those in media, publications, and online content. The law targets social influencers who market or sell on their platforms, covering both paid and unpaid promotions. Even “gifts” from brands, if used for barter, are under its purview. Although the licensing process seems daunting with paperwork, once understood, it’s straightforward, and licenses are approved swiftly, enabling content creation.

Licensing of Social Media Influencers

Influencer licensing in the UAE covers any electronic promotion, paid or unpaid, ensuring responsible content and shielding the public from harmful material. This rule encompasses digital creators on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, bloggers, and vloggers.

Influencers must pay the Meydan Free Zone fee and the NMC license fee. Even influencers bartering services require licensing. Meydan Free Zone doesn’t offer freelance licenses; influencers pick from 3500+ business activities. A license from Meydan can start at AED 12,500, fluctuating based on visa needs. Additionally, an annual AED 1500 permit from NMC is required. Permits are issued or renewed within 30 days. Unregistered influencers or those breaking rules face fines and account closure. Meydan Free Zone doesn’t offer freelance licenses or visa options.

What is the UAE Media License?

Introduced by The National Media Council, which falls under the Media Regulatory Office – Ministry of Culture and Youth, the new UAE Media License for electronic media is intended to make online advertising more professional and transparent for corporations, influencers, and consumers. The adjustments will make media material more balanced and accountable, shielding the public from the unpleasant, deceptive, or deadly impacts of advertising.

To summarise, the new regulations compel everyone engaging in commercial activity via social media to register for an e-media license if they intend to continue. This regulation will only affect individuals who are compensated for endorsements, not all bloggers or social media users.

The National Media Council, the regulators driving the reform, have stated that they do not seek to oversee social media accounts or blogs that do not make money from their activity, or those who receive products in exchange for a review. Only commercial influencers are affected by the changes.

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Activities That Require NMC Approval

According to the new system, the following media activities require prior approval:

  • Trading, showcasing, selling and printing video and audio materials on websites and social media

  • Electronic publishing and on-call printing

  • Electronic advertisements

  • Publishing news

  • Any electronic activity that the council deems appropriate to be added.

Fees and How to Apply for the UAE Social Media License

Social media marketing or affiliate marketing on your website or social media will almost certainly require you to obtain a license.

  1. You must first apply for a trade license from Meydan Free Zone in order to begin the process of obtaining a social media influencer license in Dubai, UAE.
  2. You must then apply for a permit from the National Media Council to complete your license procedure.
  3. To obtain NMC approval, you must meet the requirements and fulfill the conditions and choose from the 3 available licensing options. You can choose from the following:
    • Category One
      Influencers can opt for an “individual license” at AED 15,000 if they wish to work independently, but it requires a separate trade license.
    • Category Two
      Small groups of influencers (often friends or family) can choose a partnership license. They must form a company, register it, and obtain a trade license before seeking the NMC’s e-media license, also priced at AED 15,000.
    • Category Three
      Influencers can join an NMC-certified agency with a license covering all its influencers. They can operate in the UAE if registered exclusively with such an agency. Influencers must align with only one agency; all paid deals should be routed through that company.
  4. During the application process, select the “websites and social accounts specialised for online advertising” option under business activity, and if you have many social media accounts, you only need to apply for one license, but you must list all of them in your application.
  5. If approved, you will receive an e-license through email and the licensing website within five to seven working days.

In order to renew your license, the Ministry of Culture and Youth, UAE, states that you can:

  1. Electronically submit the renewal request
  2. Submit a photocopy of the license holder’s passport (to ensure the passport is valid)
  3. Attach a copy of the most recent renewal of the media license, a copy of the commercial license, and a copy of the lease contract.
  4. Pay the financial fees prescribed by cards (can be paid online)

As an influencer, if you are attempting to commercialise your creativity via sponsors, or being branded by large organisations through a paid arrangement, then you need to get a UAE Social Media License. 

Why Meydan Free Zone?

Be part of the UAE’s rapidly growing digital content industry with Meydan Free Zone’s support. We offer licensing services to digital creators with a streamlined process. With cost-effective services and a seasoned team well-versed in free zone operations, Meydan is your gateway to obtaining a UAE Media License. Contact us today to kickstart your journey!

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