Another news channel has taken to the airwaves this week, bidding for a place in the hearts and minds of Arabic audiences.
British public broadcaster BBC relaunched an Arabic television service on Tuesday that goes head-to-head with popular existing stations like Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera.
The new station is integrated with BBC Arabic radio and bbcarabic.com, both of which were recently relaunched. “The BBC’s objective is to continue to strengthen its reach and impact in the Arab world through a multimedia offer across the main platforms in the region – television, radio, online and mobile phone,” says BBC Arabic Service head Hossam El Sokkari.
The channel has a budget of £25 million (Dh187.5m) per year and is distributed by Arabsat, Eutelsat and Nilesat satellite systems.
But how does the station’s programming differ from what’s already on offer? And how will it reach out to Arab audiences? “There are only two reliable 24-hour news channels in the region and the perception is that they represent certain points of view and certain governments. A viewer in the Middle East has to watch the two stations and draw their own conclusions. I think the BBC can come along and immediately offer a service that the audience know and can trust,” says BBC Arabic news editor Salah Negm.
El Sokkari says the brand is already known for covering stories and issues that others have ignored, stories beyond conflict and politics. “The station aims to continue to broaden the news agenda for audiences in the region. It will reflect the breadth of the Arab audience’s interests,” he says.
In terms of programmes, the station’s flagship daily news show, Newshour, airs at 8pm each day, offering an hour of news, analysis, background reports, key interviews and debate. The station’s weekly shows include Nuqtat Hewar (Point Of Debate), a live multimedia interactive forum presented by El Sokkari; Open Agenda, an in-depth exploration of a single issue; The Commission, featuring a panel investigating social, political and economic issues; and To The Point, a one-to-one news interview show presented by Hasan Muawad.
The network’s international perspective to news and events is supported by a global news-gathering presence that includes 250 correspondents reporting from 72 bureaux plus regional correspondents throughout the Arab world.
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