Institutional influences on firm strategy in authoritarian emerging economies: mass media companies in the UAE

Purpose This is one of the first studies to investigate the influences of institutions in an authoritarian regime on the strategies of firms that operate in a potentially sensitive industry. The purpose of this paper is to examine how institutional pressures affect the strategies of multi-platform mass media companies (print, broadcast and internet) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Design/methodology/approach This qualitative study used a purposive sampling strategy to conduct interviews with 28 senior managers who have responsibility for strategic level decision making in a UAE media company. All of the interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. A mainly deductive process of thematic analysis was undertaken to identify key ideas, patterns and relationships in the data. Findings The survey participants reported that increased multi-platform delivery in the media industry brings rewards, challenges and new risks. Although the normative and cultural-cognitive pressures are both strong in the UAE, it is the regulative pressures that seem to have the largest constraining influence on firm decision making and business strategies. The strong institutional pressures existing in the UAE encourage tight coupling, where firm structures and processes are linked and designed in response to the institutional constraints. Evidence was found only of some minor decoupling. Originality/value In response to the authors’ findings, the authors hypothesise that in nations under authoritarian rule, political pressures will likely override all other institutional pressures and that it will be most sensible for firms to adopt tight coupling strategies. However, the success of many UAE firms both at home and internationally suggests that strong institutional constraints do not necessarily act as a barrier to superior firm performance.
strategy, decision making, media industry, multi-platform, Unites Arab Emirates (UAE), institutional theory, coupling, decoupling
Wilkins, S., & Emik, S. (2021), Institutional influences on firm strategy in authoritarian emerging economies: mass media companies in the UAE. International Journal of Emerging Markets, 16(1), 7-24.