Qatar promises rival TV channel to MBC
By Chris Forrester

To date, Qatar is best known for the Al Jazeera news channel, sports channels and kids services. Now it says it will launch a new ‘general entertainment’ Arabic channel to rival the top-rated MBC and LBC services.

Local reports say the all-entertainment channel is looking to tempt existing on-air talent, and producers, to Qatar’s capital city Doha and that the broadcaster has $200 million ready to invest. This sort of sum is huge by Middle East standards where most leading broadcasting operations have to exist on only a fraction of that sum.

Market leader MBC carries plenty of ‘western’ formats, not least Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and a recent success The Voice. MBC, despite broadcasting from Dubai, is financed by Saudi Arabian backers.

The new Qatari channel, according to sources quoted by BBC Monitoring, will also rival MBC in having a flagship news programme, but would present itself to viewers as being more youthful with younger on-air talent. The channel, says the sources, will also draw on production facilities in Beirut, Cairo and Dubai, each of which has the ability to mount large entertainment-based productions.

Qatar itself is one of richest countries on the planet, helped by massive gas and oil reserves. It has a population of 1.8 million.