Sky News Arabia, British Sky Broadcasting’s (BSkyB) first foreign-language news channel, said Tuesday it is on track to launch in early 2012.
The planned 24-hour Arabic channel has hired 70 staff and expects to hire a further 300 by the close of the year, the company said in an emailed statement. The network also plans to offer a graduate internship scheme to local journalists, the statement said.
Questions were raised over the launch of the news channel after the collapse of News Corp’s $12bn takeover bid for BSkyB in July, after the Rupert Murdock-owned firm became mired in a phone hacking scandal.
The deal had been opposed by the British government after it was revealed the News Corp-owned tabloid News of the World in 2002 hacked into the voice mails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler and deleted messages.
In a statement in July to Arabian Business, the Abu Dhabi-based channel said it was “committed to the launch of Sky News Arabia in the spring of 2012.”
Sky News Arabia, a joint venture between BSkyB and Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, will be going head-to-head for viewing figures with the Prince Alwaleed-backed Alarab news channel.
The Saudi billionaire last month confirmed he had teamed up with Bloomberg to fund a 24-hour Arabic-language news network, fronted by Saudi-based journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi.
In a statement, the news channel said it would focus on the shifts taking place across the Arab world with “an emphasis on freedom of speech and freedom of press.”
Sky News Arabia will broadcast to an estimated 50 million households across the Middle East and North Africa.