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The Sky News Arabia studios in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sky News Arabia
The Sky News Arabia studios in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Sky News Arabia

Sky News Arabia ready for broadcast

Sky News Arabia, the Arabic TV-news station set for launch this spring, has moved into its Abu Dhabi studio and says rehearsals will begin later this month.

Sky News Arabia, the Arabic TV news station scheduled for launch this spring, has moved into its Abu Dhabi studio and says rehearsals will begin this month.

More than 100 tonnes of broadcast equipment have been installed in the studio and all editorial staff are in place, the channel said.

"All the journalists, technical and studio staff have been recruited, and they're testing the equipment and studio," said Nart Bouran, the head of Sky News Arabia. "We're almost ready to start rehearsing."

Mr Bouran said that the launch of the free-to-air station, set for the spring, was on track. He declined to specify a date, although industry sources say the channel is likely to begin broadcasting in April.

The 24-hour station - which will broadcast in both standard and high-definition - is based at twofour54, the Abu Dhabi media hub.

Mr Bouran said that all editorial staff were in place, with only another 70 back-office staff required.

"We have 300 people on board at the moment," he said. "We're aiming to reach about 370 by launch."

The line-up of 22 presenters will be announced soon - and will include some well-known names, he added. "There are some household names, some fresh faces, and some well-known faces. It's a good mix of people from all over the Arab world," Mr Bouran said.

Sky News Arabia will vie for audience share and advertising revenues with the two incumbent news stations, Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

It will also compete with Alarab, a station being launched by the Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, which is set to launch in December and will be based in Bahrain.

The four news stations will compete for advertising in a crowded TV market worth a total of just US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn).

Mr Bouran said that the expected launch of Alarab had not affected the launch plans of Sky News Arabia. "The whole strategy of what we're doing and how we're doing it has been consistent," he said.

Sky News Arabia is a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Media Investment and British Sky Broadcasting, which owns the Sky News brand.

The Arabic-language station will have 12 dedicated bureaus, in cities such as Cairo, London, Washington, Beirut, Baghdad, Islamabad and Gaza.

"Sky News Arabia has 12 bureaus, but we also have nine Sky UK bureaus that we're connected with," Mr Bouran said. "We do have earmarked a bureau in Damascus as well, at some point. We'll need to see how we can set it up, and when we can set it up. It's a very important story, and we will try to be on the inside in Syria."

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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