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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Image Nation looks to establish 24-hour Chinese TV channel in the Middle East

Negotiations are said to be at an advanced stage as UAE prepares to welcome China's president Xi Jinping

A scene from a Chinese cookery programme shown in the UAE. Courtesy: Quest Arabiya
A scene from a Chinese cookery programme shown in the UAE. Courtesy: Quest Arabiya

Image Nation is looking to establish a 24-hour Chinese television channel in the Middle East to capitalise on growing interest in the world's most populous country.

The media and entertainment company plans to build on the success of its free-to-air Quest Arabiya channel, which has broadcast Chinese programmes to the Middle East once a week since early 2017.

Chinese content on Quest Arabiya includes lifestyle and culture and is dubbed into Arabic rather than subtitled.

It is envisaged the new channel would be entirely separate and have its own brand.

“It’s one of the most successful programmes on the channel,” chief executive Michael Garin said of Chinese content, speaking ahead of President Xi Jinping's state visit to the UAE on Thursday.

"Arab audiences have an insatiable curiosity about the world outside their region and China is near the top of their list.

"We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of online engagement with these programmes and this explains why the 24-hour channel has such an interesting appeal.

“We are now in advanced conversations with the Chinese based on the success of this to make it a 24-hour channel."

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, visited China in 2015. A strategic partnership between both countries was established during the visit and media was one of the key fields of cooperation.

Following this, Image Nation and its Chinese counterpart, the China Intercontinental Communication Centre, agreed a partnership in 2016. That deal saw a million-dollar international film fund, The Culture China – Image Nation Content Fund, established to invest in commercial film and television.

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Image Nation chairman, Mohamed Al Mubarak, said at the time that the relationship between China and the UAE is vital.

“We are going to create movies and films telling great stories and send the right messages. We are starting an industry that will flourish in the next 10 or 15 years – movies that speak to the Arab world and that speak to the world,” he said.

Quest Arabiya started its Chinese programming in 2017 across 22 countries in the Arab World.

Now Mr Garin believes the time is ripe for a standalone channel.

"Because the Chinese programming requires support from nearly every department from programming to operations, to marketing, to the on-air promotion team and even finance, approximately 24 individual staff members support this effort," he said.

It’s also why the Chinese are taking such a hard look at this project since they would have to hire all these types of people to launch a channel on their own.

“If they did this with us, they’d have all the expertise of the region, we’d share the cost and we are in business already.

“China is an important source of future tourism for the country and our hope is with this partnership that we introduce China to this part of the world but the long-term project is also to introduce our part of the world to China."