The UAE’s National Media Council has warned social media influencers and other groups have just two weeks to obtain licences to contain operating in the country legally.
The new regulation was announced in March and applies to electronic media including news and e-commerce sites and activities conducted on social media for monetary gain.
It is expected to have a particular impact on influencers with commercial activities, who can be paid tens of thousands of dirhams to promote brands if they have a sufficient following.
Reports last week suggested influencers face having to pay up to Dhs30,000 ($8,167) for licences to continue operating on the right side of the law if they are being paid for posts.
Al Tamimi & Co senior associate Fiona Robertson told The National that influencers must first have a trade licence before applying for a special e-media licence that will enable them to post content promoting or endorsing brands.
“A trade licence varies depending on the type, the authority and the location that is chosen. The e-media licence is set at Dh15,000 ($4,084),” she said.
The National Media Council hosted a workshop for institutions, companies and individuals affected by the regulation in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to make sure they registered before the deadline.
The council’s executive director for media affairs, Dr Rashid Al Nuaimi, said the regulation was intended to enhance competitiveness, increase reliability and support the provision of balanced, responsible and impartial media content.
“The National Media Council requires licensing of individuals who have accounts on social media and who conduct activities that are commercial in nature, such as advertisements that are done on a paid-for basis,” he explained.
“Accounts, blogs and personal pages are not subject to these new regulations, including the accounts of influencers on social media, provided they are not commercial in nature. Individuals and organisations that voluntarily promote work are not affected by the Electronic Media Regulations.”
Companies and individuals must register with the council’s electronic media regulations by May 31.
Those that fail to comply face fines of up to Dhs5,000 ($1,361) and the potential closure of their website or account.
The high cost of obtaining a licence is expected to impact the county’s less established influencer community, some of which post on social media part time but still boast thousands of followers.
For other more established names with followers in the millions business may still be lucrative enough, given reports of some quoting Dhs75,000 ($20,418) for a single sponsored Facebook post and one Instagram story.