Gulf countries vie to host fresh Arabic news station
Rebecca Hawkes ©RapidTVNews | 03-10-2011 Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Bahrain are each being considered to house the headquarters of the latest 24 hour Arabic TV news station, Alarab, which is due for launch in December 2012.
Alarab, backed by Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, will be supported by business news specialist Bloomberg, according to Abu Dhabi's The National.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who will manage the channel, told the newspaper that the decision on where to base operations will be made in the coming two weeks – with Dubai considered the current favourite.
Khashoggi also said Prince Al Waleed has committed to funding the channel for the next ten years – although he hopes to establish a commercial model and break even five years from launch.
The Arabic news broadcasting market is getting ever more crowded, with Sky News Arabia also set for commercial launch next spring. Doha-based Al Jazeera Network, which is funded by the government of Qatar, and the MBC news channel Al Arabiya are currently the market leaders in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Competition is tough between the two stations, according to Elie Aoun, managing director MENA at Ipsos MediaCT, which tracks regional advertising spend.
"While viewership of channels may have increased during the Arab Spring, ad revenues have actually fallen," Mr Aoun is quoted as saying in The National. "All the news stations are showing a decrease in advertising expenditure."
There are also a proliferation of international news services in Arabic, such as BBC Arabic, France 24, Russiya Al Yaum, Iran's Al Alam, CCTV from China, and Al Hurra from the US.