Prepare for a round of pan-Arab television news talent poaching (updated).

Posted: 13 Aug 2010   Print   Send a link
Arab Media & Society, Summer 2010, Paul Cochrane on the recently announced plans by Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and, separately (or perhaps not), by Sky News, with an Abu Dhabi investor, to start pan-Arab news channels: "A lot of questions still hang in the air about News Corp.'s entry into the region's media landscape and how the upcoming news channels will fare. There is already talk that the Prince Alwaleed and Sky ventures will be seeking to poach journalists and anchors from Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, while Al Jazeera has indicated that the network will up investment to be more than prepared for new contenders. Two new channels may of course be beneficial for media freedoms in the region, making it harder for governments to restrict four channels rather than just Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya. Yet it may not make any difference given the provenance of the channels. The channels may be used as tools to stoke tensions between Gulf countries – best exmplified by the spats between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya – and over wider geopolitical issues, such as Iran, Iraq and Yemen. And crucially, will these new channels 'objectively' cover stories in their headquarters' countries?"

Digital Production Middle East, 9 August 2010: "The region now faces the prospect of four competitive, well-financed, locally based, Arabic-language news stations. The consequences of this may be most keenly felt by the two existing market leaders. However, with Al Jazeera seemingly focused on the international distribution of its English-language service, it may be undeterred by the new entrants. Sky News has received plaudits in the UK for its accessible style and reputation for breaking news. Existing channels could be forced to raise their game." See previous post about same subject.

Update: Gulf News (Dubai), 12 August 2010, Abbas Al Lawati: "It is no secret that news channels in the Middle East are a losing business. Many would prefer not to even call them a business. Their managers do not hide the fact that the channels are not commercially driven or commercially viable. Salah Negm, a regional media veteran and director of news at Al Jazeera English told Gulf News recently that the region's news channels did not consider their returns in terms of revenue, 'but viewers'. The two newcomers are expected to change that."