Alwaleed’s new box of tricks

Sky, Al Jazeera and now Prince Alwaleed are jostling for a slice of the Arab media market. Who will come out on top?

Prince Alwaleed has joined forces with Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer in launching Alarab news

Prince Alwaleed has joined forces with Bloomberg chairman Peter Grauer in launching Alarab news

While Alarab’s Bloomberg content will be exclusive to the region it may be screen across the rest of the world, says Lack. “It will be exclusive in the region, the content itself may be seen outside the region because it’s global business news and financial data which other regions, whether its Europe or Asia will be interesting in as well.”

So what can we expect from the new channel? Both parties have emphasised the fact it will be providing transparent and non-bias news. “Going into it [transparency] was a precondition for Bloomberg and a precondition for the prince. We would not have been aligned properly if that were not the case,” explains Lack.

“Bloomberg is well known for its clarity of purpose in this matter and you’ll see no change in the way we operate here in the Middle East than any differently than anywhere else in the world. We seek to bring our transparency and objectivity to these markets the way we have to every market that we’ve operated in and that’s the best antidote to the challenges that sometimes censorship seem to pose in these areas,” he adds.

The launch of Alarab will no doubt receive praise across the Arab world for pushing cultural boundaries but rest assured, getting Prince Alwaeed’s attention come 2012 just got that much harder.

Sky News Arabia

It surprised no-one when Rupert Murdoch announced that he was jumping on the back of the Arab news content bandwagon last year.

His new channel, Sky News Arabia, will be a 50/50 joint venture between British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) and the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation, an investment firm headed up by HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, deputy prime minister of the UAE.

Sky News Arabia will be based in twofour54 free zone in Abu Dhabi, and will be aided by a series of bureaus across the world, with content fed from an estimated 180 ‘multimedia’ journalists.

Its chairman is Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the managing director and CEO of Masdar, as well as retaining a position as a senior advisor to Mubadala. Other directorial appointees are chief financial officer of BSkyB Andrew Griffith, head of Sky News John Ryley, and Abdulhamid Saeed, managing director of First Gulf Bank. Sky News Arabia’s director of news is Nart Bouran, formerly director of television at Reuters.

The channel, which is set to broadcast to an estimated 50 million households across the region, will directly compete against CNBC Arabiya, which opened its latest bureau in Bahrain at the end of last year. Like CNBC, Sky News Arabia will be hoping that its Arabic language channel will complement the services already offered by its English channel.

While details of the launch are so far relatively limited, Sky News Arabia has confirmed that despite the intense speculation focused on Murdoch as a result of the phone-hacking scandal in the UK, broadcasting will start next spring.

The scandal implicated one of the Newscorp boss’ British tabloid newspapers, and effectively prevented Murdoch from buying a majority stake in BSkyB.

Not that Murdoch is a stranger to Arabic news; Newscorp already owns just under fifteen percent of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Rotana Media Group — a major distributor of Arabic-language films.

The impending launch gained further momentum earlier this month, when the channel confirmed that it had hired EVS to supply production and playout platforms, while Harris will supply solutions for part of Sky News Arabia’s playout automation.

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