Murdoch gaining more control at Rotana?
Written by Chris Forrester

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is a major investor in News Corp, and in return Rupert Murdoch took a 9% stake in Alwaleed’s Rotana music-to-movies TV channel empire. There have been many discussions over the past few weeks including talks between the two moguls in Beirut last week.

But it seems that News Corp’s options to take a larger stake in Rotana might already have larger ramifications. It was a Murdoch official who visited Cairo in January and laid off 49 Rotana staff. Rotana has also pulled out of a $1.5m annual rental of studio space at Egypt’s giant Media Production City and has switched production to Beirut.

News Corp certainly has options to increase its stake in Rotana, and the rumours in Cairo – wholly unconfirmed – are that News Corp wants a greater say in Rotana’s overall output including Alwaleed’s Arabic film library. The same rumours suggest that the pair want to stay in free-to-air TV at the moment, which is where the mass-market audience is.

The ‘holy grail,’ at least as far as Cairo is concerned, is to see Arabic movies again produced in bulk out of Egypt, and this was initially claimed to be a major thrust of Prince Alwaleed. However, his investments to date have been limited to just a couple of films a year.