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Wed 17 Oct 2007 12:10 AM

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MTV set for Middle East launch

Channel aims to provide voice for young Arabs as it prepares to reach 35mn households in region.

MTV is set to launch its Middle East service by the end of this year, broadcasting from its Dubai headquarters to 35 million households in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and the UAE.

About 45% of content will be produced locally, with the remainder translated, an executive told the Financial Times.

According to Bill Roedy, MTV’s vice chairman for international activities, the move comes as part of the network’s ongoing localisation strategy. Roedy told the Financial Times “In many ways (MTV Arabia) is the epitome of our localisation strategy. It's a different audience (in the Middle East) but this is what we do - we reflect culture and we respect culture. The programming mix on this one is going to be a little more local than normal."
“The key is that the packaging, attitude and obviously the language should reflect the country” he said. “There is already great music there” he added, citing Saudi rap group Jeddah Legends. “There lyrics are a little different” he said. “There’s one song about how much he loves his mother and one about the stress of getting married”.

MTV is considering other ways to respect local customs, the FT said, including placing Dora the Explorer, a Nickelodeon character, in a headscarf.

The network already broadcasts the Muslim call to prayer in Indonesia and is looking for possible partners in Afghanistan.

Roedy told the FT "I feel very emotional about how this part of the world has been misrepresented, especially in the US," he says. "In this world of exclusion, misrepresentation and stereotyping, we can provide a voice to young Arabs."

MTV is working with local partner Arab Media Group, which will cover programme budgets and arrangements with satellite operators. MTV will provide a dozen staff.

The service will be closely followed by the launch of Nickelodeon Arabia next year which will broadcast to countries including Saudi Arabia the UAE, Egypt and Lebanon.

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