Alhurra, the US government-funded Arabic television channel, is reportedly planning to launch a news programme focused on local stories from the Middle East. It signals an expansion of programming at a time when the 24-hour news channel is facing questions about its fate under the new Obama Administration.

Democrats have long been critical of the channel, which was launched by the Bush Administration in 2004, at an estimated cost of US$500 million, as a way to counter the influence of Al Jazeera in the Middle East.

The new news programme, which will be launched simultaneously out of the channel’s bureaus in Dubai, Beirut, Morocco, Jerusalem and its US headquarters in Virginia, is expected to launch within the next two months, according to sources in the industry.
Deirdre Kline, the director of communications at the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, the Virginia-based non-profit organisation that runs both Alhurra and its sister station Radio Sawa with a grant from the US government-backed Broadcasting Board of Governors, declined to comment on either the new programmes or the prospects of the channel under the new administration.

“Alhurra is always looking for new and exciting programmes,” she said. “However, we are not doing any interviews right now