The decision by Akhbar Al Arab, published by Al Wathba for Media in Abu Dhabi, to commit to a BPA Worldwide audit is hoped will act as a catalyst for other Arabic language titles to follow suit.
While the majority of UAE English dailies have already undergone audits, the Arabic press has been criticised for not reacting quickly enough to calls for greater transparency and accountability when it comes to their claimed circulation figures.
Akhbar Al Arab is only the second Arabic language newspaper in the region to have applied for an audit. Oman weekly Al Isbou'a, published by Apex Press and Publishing, is the only other Arabic paper to have signed up with the BPA.
Hamid Maammer, deputy general manager at Akhbar Al Arab, said its decision to be audited was in response to what he claimed were exaggerated circulation figures being touted by other newspapers. "We want to confirm to international standards when it comes to our circulation numbers and try and bring some clarity into a market where some publishers are claiming high circulation numbers that are not accurate," he said.
Glenn Hansen, president and CEO at BPA, who was in Dubai last week to chair the audit firm's first Middle East Advisory Board, said he hoped to see other Arabic newspapers and magazines sign up for audits as a result of Akhbar Al Arab's decision.
"The predictions are that now we have two Arabic language newspapers, one from Oman and one from the UAE, that will continue to spur demand, so it is not just the English language press that up until now has largely got the attention. I think that attention will now begin to shift and we will begin to see more of the Arabic press submitting for circulation audits."
There is less than two months before a deadline set by the Circulation Audit Steering Organisation comes into force, at which time some of the largest spending advertisers in the region have committed to cut or reduce their ad spend with unaudited titles.
Hansen also announced six additional publications that have applied for audits. They are: Auto Trader from Auto Trader Publishing House; Emirates Airline's Open Skies, Portfolio, TV & Radio magazines published by Motivate; and Business Islamica and Capita magazines, from Tradewind Business Media.
There are now 46 publications that have either applied for or undergone audits in the region and Hansen predicted the number could rise dramatically.
"I think the numbers will increase from 46 substantially by the year end, optimistically maybe as high as 100."
He said the BPA, which opened an office in Dubai earlier this year, was now looking to recruit another person to cope with the increase demand for circulation audits.
Speaking about the Middle East Advisory Board, Hansen said: "BPA Worldwide has confirmed its commitment to the market by setting up a local audit board."