BBC to launch Arabic channel

BBC has announced plans to launch a 24-hour Arabic-language television channel, which will be available to viewers in the Middle East, the UK and Europe.

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By  Vijaya Cherian Published  June 30, 2004

BBC has announced plans to launch a 24-hour Arabic-language television channel for its Middle East viewers. The station will be based in London with correspondents throughout the Middle East, and will offer a mix of news, information, discussion programmes and documentaries. The venture is meant to compete with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel, as well as other Arab satellite stations, backed by Saudi interests. Speaking before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK parliament on 22 June, BBC World Service acting director Nigel Chapman said the proposed channel's mix of news, discussion programmes and documentaries would address ‘the dramatically changed media landscape in the Middle East’. The plans have been included in the British Foreign Office's 2004 Spending Review which goes before the British Treasury for approval. The BBC is seeking an additional US $34 million to fund the channel, according to reports in the London 'Financial Times'. BBC World Service radio is funded by the UK government through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office while BBC World television is an entirely commercial venture. BBC World Service Television ran an Arabic service that was carried on Orbit, the Middle East satellite bouquet, for a number of years until it closed in 1996 following pressure from the Saudi Arabian government.

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