Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 May 2019

Arabic news service Elaph to launch three online portals after BBC deal

Othman Al Omeir, a Saudi-born businessman and journalist, founded Elaph in 2001. He based it in London to sidestep what he describes as a lack of media freedom in parts of the Arab world.

The founder of Elaph.com, an Arabic news service, says he plans to launch three online portals by the end of 2017, as he confirmed a deal with BBC Arabic to republish video content.

Othman Al Omeir, a Saudi-born businessman and journalist, founded Elaph in 2001. He based it in London to sidestep what he describes as a lack of media freedom in parts of the Arab world.

But with relatively low advertising revenues from political news, Mr Al Omeir now plans to launch three Elaph-branded websites – covering business, the arts, and women’s interests – over the next two years.

“It is those that generate money, more than politics,” he said. “We are also thinking about having an English website after we publish the three others.”

Mr Al Omeir said it “isn’t easy” to derive advertising income from political news, but said that would not be the case with the new sites. They will also be based in London, as some news outlets in the Middle East lack the “freedoms to tackle all the problems, especially the political or religious problems”.

“We have more freedom because we are outside the Arab world,” said Mr Al Omeir. “There are many writers who write for Elaph what you couldn’t write for a publication in the Middle East.”

Elaph last month signed a deal with BBC Arabic to broadcast video content produced by the BBC. Under the terms of the deal, BBC Arabic will provide about 120 video clips a month to Elaph.

The BBC did not disclose the value of the deal.

Mr Al Omeir said the deal would encourage “real journalism”, which he said was lacking in parts of the wider industry.

“Our goal is to try to transfer the experience of the European countries – like with the BBC and in Germany, and also the United States – to our media. This is what we need,” he said.

Mr Al Omeir said: “We don’t want to just transfer the technology and the quantity. We want to have real journalism and hot stories.”

Elaph currently has journalists in Syria and Yemen covering the conflicts in those countries, unlike many other Arabic news outlets, according to Mr Al Omeir.

“A lot of things are not right in the Arab media. We have two wars, one in Syria and one in Yemen. And how many journalists are there? You will see very few,” he said. “So this is part of what we are trying to introduce, to have the story from its own sources.”

A BBC Arabic spokesman confirmed the agreement reached last month with Elaph.

“The BBC granted Elaph a licence enabling the portal to include on its online pages video content from the BBC Arabic player,” he said.

“The BBC World Service has hundreds of partnership arrangements with media organisations all over the world. BBC Arabic has developed over many years strategic relationships with a range of media organisations across the Middle East and North Africa and beyond.”

business@thenational.ae

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Updated: October 4, 2015 04:00 AM

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