Lebanon TV row with Murdoch and Rotana
By Chris Forrester

Popular pan-Arab satellite channel LBC-SAT has been taken off the air in an increasingly bitter squabble between the terrestrial version of the station (Lebanese Broadcasting Company) and Saudi Arabia’s Rotana Group in which Rupert Murdoch holds a near-15 per cent stake.

LBC is a very long-established, and hugely popular, Lebanese broadcaster headed by Pierre el Daher. Its international pan-Arab transmissions are carried by LBC-SAT (LBC-S). LBC’s satellite service, however, has a complicated ownership structure which goes back to happier days when el-Daher’s partner was Sheik Saleh Kamel, the Saudi Arabian owner of Arab Radio & Television (ART).

Sheikh Saleh sold his stake in 2008 to Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire Saudi Arabian prince and his Rotana media empire, in which Rupert Murdoch also has a growing stake.

El-Daher and Prince Alwaleed have been squabbling for some time over sharing the production costs for some of LBC’s top-rated shows such as the local versions of Star Academy and Deal or No Deal.

Pierre el-Daher, in a statement, said Rotana Holdings had made incorrect and “defamatory” comments against him and LBC-International. He alleged that the jointly-owned production arm had for the past three-and-a-half years had “has a long history of delayed or missed payments and non-performance with its [broadcasting] counterparts” which had caused major problems.

He alleged other “suspicious” decisions taken by Rotana had further exacerbated problems for the broadcasting arm by terminating the overall agreements that existed between the various players. El-Daher argues that it has become evident that Rotana “was pursuing a systematic policy aiming at undermining the Lebanese media and audiovisual sector which had established itself as a fierce competitor in the region and a landmark when it came to distinguished TV production”.

“We would like to assure our audience, Lebanese and Arab, in Lebanon and abroad, that these attempts to undermine LBCI are doomed to failure. Building on our human, technical, financial, and other resources and on our resilience to overcome the difficulties that have faced us over the years, we assure you that, this too, shall pass,” said El-Daher’s statement.