x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

New Gulf TV station to tune into youth

The Arabic-language news station being launched by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will be 'moderate' and geared towards a young audience.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s Arabic-language news station would face the established news operations Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s Arabic-language news station would face the established news operations Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

The Arabic-language news station being launched by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will be "moderate" and geared towards a youth audience, says one of the Saudi billionaire's senior executives.

In July, Prince Alwaleed said he had appointed the controversial journalist Jamal Khashoggi to head the new 24-hour station, which will compete with established players such as Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

The new station may launch within a year, said Dr Hala Sarhan, the president of Rotana Studios, which is part of Prince Alwaleed's media empire. Dr Sarhan said the new station would launch in "a few months … It could be 11 months, it could be six months."

"I'm very keen to see it come out because I think it's going to be different - it's going to be really full of life and energy, with a young look," she said.

"We're going to be moderate, we're going to be young, we're going to be focused on the Arab world, and business and politics, and the whole world."

The new station will not be run by Rotana but by Kingdom Holding, which is also owned by Prince Alwaleed. Kingdom Holding was not available for comment. Dr Sarhan also confirmed that Prince Alwaleed's channel - which has not yet been publicly named - will be separate from an Arabic news channel being launched by the broadcaster Sky News.

Separate announcements made last summer concerning the launch of the two Arabic news stations prompted speculation that they may be linked. This was because Prince Alwaleed has a 7 per cent stake in News Corp, which has a 39.1 per cent interest in British Sky Broadcasting. In turn, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp holds a 9.09 per cent stake in Prince Alwaleed's media company Rotana. But Dr Sarhan confirmed that Prince Alwaleed's channel was separate from Sky's. "It has nothing to do with Sky News. It's an independent news channel and it's not going to be Rotana - it's going to be within Kingdom Holding."

She said the operation would be based in the Gulf but declined to specify which country. Meanwhile, a senior source at Sky News said the UK broadcaster's Arabic operation would be headed by Adrian Wells, who is currently head of foreign news at the broadcaster. The source said Sky's Arabic-language operation would include "at least seven Middle East bureaus". Sky declined to confirm the information, however.

"Sky News remains in discussions with an Abu Dhabi-based private investor about the potential to establish a new 24/7 Arabic language satellite news channel," Sky said in an e-mailed statement. "If the discussions are successful, the channel could launch within 24 months. There are no further announcements to make at this time."

bflanagan@thenational.ae