Saudi prince announces new English language TV channel

A new initiative to dispel the myths and misinformation about Islam generated since September 11 has been revealed by a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.

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By  David Cass Published  July 16, 2002

Plans for a 160-million-dollar English-language satellite TV station to be launched from London to help clear misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims are well advanced, according to reports from India quoting a member of the Saudi Arabian royal family.

The media website, Screenindia.com quotes Prince Mansur bin Nasser bin Abdul Aziz as saying that the station, ATV, would be on the air “after finalising some necessary procedures.” He said feasibility studies had been completed, but did not give a specific launch date. The prince said that funding has been raised from charities and loans from international banks.

In the first phase, the station will broadcast in English mainly to viewers in the United States, Canada and Europe. Once its English language service is established, Prince Mansur says it will broadcast in German, French, Spanish and Italian. “The station will monitor the misconceptions and distortions broadcast by enemy stations” against Arabs and Muslims and try to refute them, he said.
As to operating costs, he said that ATV would be a non-profit station, intended to become the voice of Arabs and Muslims in the West. It will rely for income on sponsorships and advertisements for Arab and Islamic products. “It will help improve the image of Muslims in the West, which was damaged and linked to terror following the September 11 attacks in the United States.” Prince Mansur said.

The prince said the station was also designed to help attract foreign investments to the Arab and Islamic worlds by highlighting investment opportunities and explaining investment laws in force in Arab and Muslim countries.

David Cass comments: This low-key announcement of such a major media venture is unusual and it looks as though the channel pre-empts long-announced plans by the Arab League to establish just such an operation. The investment is large by any standards. The Arab League, for instance expected to spend only around $20-million on its channel. In an effort to compare costs I can find no hard numbers for TV start-ups in the region but it is widely believed that it cost $50 million to set up Al Jazeera and around $50 million a year to run. Dubai’s Ministry of information is rumoured to have allocated a mere $70 million to set up its sports and business channels, with two others, which were included in the package yet to emerge. That works out at around $17 million each.

See full story with international comment in the next edition of Arabian Business.

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