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MBC rules out news channel in English

The MBC Group has ruled out launching an English language news channel, at least in the short term, Campaign can reveal.

The MBC Group has ruled out launching an English language news channel, at least in the short term, Campaign can reveal.

Plans to launch an equivalent to its Arabic Al Arabiya news channel were being actively considered by the Dubai-based broadcaster, but have been ruled out for the moment.

Abdul Rahman Al Rashed, general manager at Al Arabiya, said there was no commercial value in having a 24-hour English news station.

“So far, I don’t see an English channel has a commercial value. It means I will be driving this company into an expensive game or subjecting it to an unhappy situation,” he said.

Rival Al Jazeera is due to launch its English service, Al Jazeera International, this year, but the project has been plagued by delays and technical difficulties. The service was slated to start before the summer, but it is now not expected to begin broadcasting until later in the year.

“It is a very expensive game,” said Al Rashed. “That’s why you see our friends at Al Jazeera struggling for almost two years and not launching their TV station. I wish them really good luck but it is a big noise and really it’s not going to be able to compete with news stations in different regions, whether you are in India or England.”

Al Rashed also claimed that viewers prefer Al Arabiya to Al Jazeera because it is “ideology-free”.

“They judge news. We do not judge news. With them, it is only one opinion all the way,” he said. “We are more modern than Al Jazeera, more newsy. They spend more time on views than news. People call us various things but we have strict rules to get everyone’s voice on the screen.”

Surveys of Arab viewers in the region have consistently shown that news channels are among the most watched in the region. The battle is set to intensify next year whent the BBC launches its own Arabic news TV service.

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