x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

TV station for eastern Sharjah

Sharjah Media Corporation is training staff following Dh100 million investment in broadcast equipment; plans new TV station and is studying possibility of radio and print media launches.

Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, the chairman of SMC, right, and Dr Khaled Omar al Midfa, the head of Sharjah Radio and TV.
Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, the chairman of SMC, right, and Dr Khaled Omar al Midfa, the head of Sharjah Radio and TV.

Sharjah Media Corporation (SMC) plans to launch a TV station focused on the emirate's eastern enclaves and is studying the possibility of further broadcast and print-media launches.

The company's fourth TV station will be focused on Sharjah's tiny eastern areas, which include Kalba, Dibba al Hisn and Khor Fakkan.

The decision to launch the satellite-TV station, which will operate out of Kalba, was made this year by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah. The date for the launch has not been given.

Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, the chairman of SMC, said the government-owned media company was gearing up to launch the station.

"The main purpose is to have a lot of focus on the east coast … We are working on the budget needed for that channel," Sheikh Sultan said.

"We are also trying to have a lot of programmes come out of the east coast … instead of saying everything comes out of Sharjah [city]."

SMC runs three TV stations - Sharjah TV, Sharjah Sports Channel and Sharjah22 Channel - and one radio station. It is also behind a media training centre, which is currently in operation, as well as a government information office that is set to launch next month.

The SMC brand was officially launched this year, uniting existing TV and radio operations under one group.

As part of the relaunch, SMC said the Government had invested Dh100m in the group, most which was used to buy TV equipment such as live broadcast facilities, cameras and tapeless-editing equipment.

The group is training its staff to use the new equipment, said Sheikh Sultan.

"We are only using about 20 or 30 per cent of what we have," he said. "We're trying to gradually shift to a newer technology."

While the group is concentrating on its TV operations, it is considering the launch of an additional radio station and print media.

"We did look at opening another radio station, but we haven't gone deep into that. We're still looking at it," said Sheikh Sultan. "We do have several frequencies with us, so we might utilise one of those frequencies for a new channel. But we're still focusing on improving what we already have."

Another aim is the launch of print titles, which may include a newspaper and magazine. But Sheikh Sultan said this was some way off.

"I wouldn't mind having a newspaper or magazine," he said. "It's in the thoughts of the management and everyone else. But it's not a project that will happen today or tomorrow."

SMC is funded by the Government and its advertising revenues do not cover expenditure. "We are trying to improve on what our income is but I don't think we will be able to cover our costs," Sheikh Sultan said. "We have over 500 employees working in the media corporation."

He added SMC was focusing on the "niche" market of family-friendly television. "Our main focus is to be respectable TV. We're targeting a niche market …

"You can turn on Sharjah TV and keep it on all day, and you don't care if your children are watching it. You can keep it on and you're safe." But Sheikh Sultan added this approach meant SMC faces a "fight" against more profitable, but not necessarily family-orientated channels.

"A lot of [channels] are trying to get income anyway they want … they don't care who's on the other side of the screen," he said. "Fighting our way - with bigger, more profitable channels that provide more than what we do in order just to be profitable - is not easy."

Despite government ownership, Sheikh Sultan said SMC was editorially independent.

"What programmes we show, what topics we discuss, is entirely up to the board of Sharjah Media Corporation," he said. "The Government has no say in what we show."

Dr Khalid Omar al Midfa, the head of Sharjah Radio and TV, said most of the group's TV content was produced in-house.

"Last year over 80 per cent of the production was in-house, which is quite high," Mr al Midfa said.

bflanagan@thenational.ae