By Andrew White
Controversial former al-Watan editor appointed boss of Prince Alwaleed's TV channel.
Jamal Khashoggi, the former editor in chief of al-Watan newspaper, has been appointed to run the 24-hour news channel being launched by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud.
The new channel, which will broadcast in Arabic and is intended to compete with the Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera satellite channels, will focus on development in Saudi Arabia and the wider Arab world, with an emphasis on politics, economics and society.
Khashoggi resigned from his post at al-Watan in May, after the publication of an opinion piece criticising Salafism, a form of Islam at the heart of the Saudi state.
In his defence, Khashoggi said that he had been abroad when the decision was taken to run the article, and that he did not agree with the points made in the piece, by Saudi poet Ibrahim al-Almaee.
"We believe in al-Watan newspaper, and we believe in reform," Khashoggi said after resigning. "The newspaper is more important than I am, and I hope it will continue. We may question social issues like women's rights, but we should not have allowed an article to question the essence of faith."
According to a statement released by Kingdom Holding, which is owned by Prince Alwaleed, Khashoggi will oversee a string of specialist newsgathering bureaus around the region and the world.
“The new news channel is going to become an addition and an alternative for viewers,” said Prince Alwaleed in the statement. “Our personal aim is to achieve this.”
Before his work at Alwatan, Khashoggi was media advisor to HRH Prince Turki AlFaisal at embassies in both London and Washington DC.
Khashoggi had clashed with the Saudi authorities before, over articles on the religious police and women's rights, and there was speculation that he had been forced to resign. In 2003 Khashoggi was dismissed from al-Watan for criticising a 14th Century Muslim theologian, but returned to the newspaper in 2007.
Prince Alwaleed already boasts a significant presence in the media industry through his ownership of Rotana Holding Group, which owns a bouquet of leading channels and employs over 1,300 staff across the Middle East.
Recently, Rotana paid $17.9m for the third FM radio license in Saudi Arabia. And in February this year, Rotana announced that Newscorp had reached an agreement to buy a 9.09 percent stake in the company, to further develop its postion in the media sector in the Middle East.
Kingdom Holding, the principal shareholder of Rotana, is owner of approximately seven percent of News Corporation’s Class B Common Stock.