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.