Ramadan sees new channels for Mid-East
By Chris Forrester

The start of the Islamic special month of Ramadan has seen a clutch of new channels launched. Some are wholly secular and look to target in on the month when Arab viewing is at its highest. Others reflect the special religious focus of the month.

Arabia Entertainment’s Arabia Drama has gone live after a soft launch back in April, with a free to air drama channel broadcasting on Nilesat, Arabsat and rebroadcasting “on IPTV platforms around the world”. It says it will provide premium quality Arabic entertainment.

A new Syrian-backed channel ‘Nur al-Sham’ has gone live on Nilesat with a message “of Islam’s tolerance that brings all Muslims together” and featuring interviews with scientists, intellectuals and religious scholars.

Based in Jeddah, an old-established channel, Iqraa, is launching a month of special programmes and beaming them out in English, French, Urdu, Malay, Chinese, Afrikaans and Russian and with the idea of “reaching the largest number of viewers around the world”. Iqraa is backed by Saudi billionaire Sheikh Salah Kamel, who founded the ART bouquet of pay-TV channels.

Beirut is the base of a new Lebanese channel, Al-Mayadin TV, which has come about between the merger of the Al-Ittihad Channel, which was established by journalist Nayif Kurayyim, and this new project launched by [former Al-Jazeera moderator] journalist Ghassan Bin-Jiddu. Nayif Kurayyim, director-general of the Al-Mayadin Satellite Network, and quoted by BBC Monitoring, says: “We wanted to start with an Arab media outlet that unifies and never divides people; a channel that seeks to preserve what is left of the points of strength and brightness of this ummah [Islamic community worldwide].”