The BBC Arabic Television Service is to launch on March 11, the corporation has confirmed.

The news channel, run by the World Service, will air 12 hours a day from launch then move to round-the-clock broadcasting later in the year. It secured extra Foreign Office funds in the autumn to make the channel 24 hours

The Arabic service has been in planning since 2005 and was originally billed to begin last autumn.

BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman said previously it would give people in the Middle East "multi-media access through television, radio, and online to trusted journalism of the highest standing and increased opportunity for dialogue and debate". He said: "We believe this will be a popular and valuable asset for audiences in this troubled region."

A spokesman said further details would be announced in the days before the launch.