x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

CNBC and BBC have expansion plans

Two international broadcasters are planning to expand their television services in the Middle East.

Jerry Timmins says the BCC has been recruiting.
Jerry Timmins says the BCC has been recruiting.

Two international broadcasters are planning to expand their television services in the Middle East. CNBC, the global broadcaster of live business and financial news, announced plans for a weekly segment focused on the region today, plus tie-ups with a series of regional events and conferences. Meanwhile, the BBC World Service has revealed plans to expand its London based BBC Persian, which currently only provides radio and online services, to a television station in Farsi for Iran later this year.

"It will initially broadcast eight hours a day, seven days a week," said Lala Najafova, the international publicist for BBC World Service. "It will be freely available to anyone with a satellite dish or cable connection in the region." The service, to be broadcast at prime time in Iran, will deliver news and analysis, as well as investigative current affairs programmes and cultural and educational documentaries. The channel would cover international and major regional issues, Ms Najafova said.

The move of BBC Persian into television is part of a broader strategy of robust expansion in the region for the broadcaster. BBC expanded its BBC Arabic radio and online service into television in March, and plans to further extend the service's broadcast day from 12 to 24 hours in the near future. Earlier this month, the BBC announced plans to participate in the training academy of Abu Dhabi's new media zone, twofour54.

"BBC has obviously been recruiting in North Africa and the Middle East. We've just expanded our Arabic service to include television - the 12 hours version in March - and now it's going 24 hours quite soon," said Jerry Timmins, the head of the Africa and Middle East region for the BBC. "BBC Persian television is to launch quite soon." CNBC, which runs regional networks in Asia, Europe and the US, is also increasingly looking to the Middle East. In addition to announcing its new weekly segment, Middle East Briefing, featuring an interview with a leading chief executive from the region, the broadcaster unveiled a series of tie-ups with regional conferences and events. This week, it is broadcasting interviews with Qatar's business and political leaders during Qatar Week.

Next month, Maria Bartiromo, the business news anchor, will host a CNBC debate during the Dubai International Finance Centre Week forum. And in January, Erin Burnett, also an anchor, will moderate a debate involving business leaders from the Americas and the GCC as part of Dubai International Capital's Arab-Americas Investment Conference. The broadcaster has also become the official media partner of the Arab Business Angels Network, a subsidiary of Dubai International Capital, to cover its investor matchmaking events.

"We're telling the globalisation story in real time, and the Middle East is an increasingly important region for telling that story, whether it is about the Middle East making an investment in the US, or the energy story, or the infrastructure story in the Middle East," said Mick Buckley, CNBC's president and chief executive for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. "We are telling the Middle East development story in the rest of the world." The broadcaster would work with its Arabic-language affiliate partner, CNBC Arabiya, based in Dubai Media City, to expand its coverage of the region, he said.

BBC Persian TV's operating cost of £15 million (Dh92m) a year will be funded by the British government. The new service was announced by Gordon Brown as the chancellor of the exchequer in Oct 2006. The funding was confirmed by the current chancellor Alistair Darling in October last year. The Arabic service last year also received an extra £6m a year, in addition to its £19m annual allocation, to extend its services to 24 hours.

The funding boost for the Middle East has been accompanied by cuts elsewhere. The BBC closed 10 foreign-language services in 2006 and shut down its Romanian service last summer. The roots of BBC Persian radio extend to the Second World War. It is aimed at listeners in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, as well as Farsi speakers around the world. khagey@thenational.ae