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Wed 10 Dec 2008 07:27 PM

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Rich List-Sheikh Walid Al Ibrahim

Rich List-Sheikh Walid Al Ibrahim

A brother-in-law of HRH Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, Sheikh Walid al-Ibrahim is by no means the richest member of the family, but with $2.9bn and as the owner of the massively successful and influential MBC, he certainly contributes something to the royal dinner table.

It was back in 1991 that MBC was launched, becoming the first broadcaster to offer a free-to-air 24-hour network across the Arab world. MBC was the first-ever, independent Arabic satellite TV station and a market leader, delivering news and quality family entertainment programming to more than 130 million Arabic-speaking people around the world. He continues to be on the forefront of the station's development.

Being first on deck has come with its problems though. MBC was late to develop a 24-hour news channel, so the Qataris beat him to the punch and launched the hard-hitting and sometimes controversial market leader - Al Jazeera.

Six years ago, Sheikh Walid set out to recapture the market, and launched Al Arabiya news channel before the invasion of Iraq.

The initial reviews were mixed, with many in the region questioning the seemingly pro-American editorial stance, but these criticisms have subsided, and the news channel has gained a loyal audience. Al Arabiya - which does take a less sensationalist (and critical) approach in its news coverage - has at least one advantage over its Qatari rival: it has not elicited the ire of governments in the region.

While Al Jazeera is barred from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and has upset officials in Jordan, Algeria, the Palestinian Authority, and Kuwait, Sheikh Walid's network has maintained amicable relationships with governments, and its journalists are tolerated throughout the Arab world.

MBC Group is much larger than just its news network and is developing into a veritable media powerhouse. Its profitability (and viewers) continues to soar, which has led to further innovations that ensured its leadership.

The sheikh is eyeing all sectors of the market, and has the content to capture the attentions of infants, children, and adults through cartoons, educational programmes, news, and a variety of locally-produced dramas and the best of Western television and movies.

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