Financial Times, 6 May 2012
, Tom Gara: "The Arab world’s newest 24-hour television news network hit the airwaves on Sunday, adding a new voice to a highly competitive market dominated by Qatar’s Al Jazeera and Saudi-backed Al-Arabiya. With a 400-person news operation backed by the UK’s BSkyB and a senior Abu Dhabi royal, the arrival of Sky News Arabia marks a new attempt to muscle in on a dense government-dominated regional market. Al-Arabiya is Jazeera’s biggest rival and government broadcasters from Britain, France, the US, Iran, Russia and China have all launched Arabic-language channels in attempts to build regional influence. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Waleed bin Talal, a significant investor in BSkyB’s controlling shareholder, News Corp, is preparing to launch a news channel of his own, in partnership with Bloomberg News. The end result is a highly-competitive market, where none, including the BBC’s own Arabic-language service launched in 2008, have managed to reach viewership levels that compete with the two market leaders. ... [Sky News Arabia] will also need to prove its ability to operate free from political interference. BSkyB’s joint venture partner, Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is also a deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and one of the most senior members of the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, where the channel is based. ... Sky News Arabia’s management say the station has been guaranteed editorial independence by its shareholders. ... 'Where we are different is we recognise that viewing habits have changed,' said Nart Bouran, Sky News Arabia’s director of news. 'Unless it’s a really hot topic, or a really ace guest, do people still really want to tune in for an hour just to see something that was pre-recorded? We are built to go live, any time, while others will go to a ticker while they’re running a recorded program.'"
The National (Abu Dhabi), 6 May 2012, Ben Flanagan: "Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the chairman of Sky News Arabia, said the station would aim to meet demand for a 'high-calibre, independent news channel' about the Arab world. 'I am confident Sky News Arabia will become an icon for objective news reporting,' Dr Al Jaber said."
The National, 7 May 2012, Ben Flanagan: "There are now 538 free-to-air TV channels in the Arab world, competing for projected advertising revenues of less than US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn) this year, according to the Arab Media Outlook. ... Ali Ajouz, a media consultant based in the UAE, agreed the challenge for Sky News Arabia was to differentiate itself in a "challenging" market." It's definitely a crowded market. But there is always the opportunity for someone to excel,' he said. Television news is costly to produce, and while Mr Ajouz said it was not 'impossible' that Sky News Arabia would turn a profit, he did not expect this to happen soon."
Rapid TV News, 7 May 2012, Rebecca Hawkes: "Sky News Arabia is now available across the Arab world free to air on transponder 15 on Arabsat Badr 4 and transponder 14 on Nilesat 201, and in HD via the OSN pay-TV satellite platform and Abu Dhabi TV. In the UAE, it is also available on the IPTV services provided by Du TV and Etisalat e-Life."
The Drum, 7 May 2012: "Andrew Griffith, chief financial officer for BSkyB and Sky News Arabia board director, added: 'BSkyB is one of the UK’s most innovative and successful companies and Sky News has always been a pioneering part of our business. Our partnership with ADMIC to create a truly independent news offering for the Middle East and North Africa is a project we are fully committed to. It is an investment that both parties are proud to have made and we aim to set a new standard for news delivery in the region.' Launch advertisers included Dolphin Energy, Etihad Airways, First Gulf Bank, Nova Chemicals and Sebsa."
The Guardian, 6 May 2012, Martin Chulov: "The newcomer faces a sceptical reception. Regional rivals who have risen and prospered over the past decade have constantly touted the same virtues [of independence]. Just as vehement has been the retort from those on the wrong end of the established networks' coverage; viewers and broadcasters alike say true independence remains elusive in this part of the world. ... Of the established networks, al-Jazeera can go close to matching it for reach and probably has far deeper pockets, as well as a proven track record. But Sky News Arabia is confident that its content – and features such as high definition and an iPad app – will make inroads into al-Jazeera's audience, which covers a vast swath of the Sunni Arab world."
The National, 7 May 2012, Achraf El Bahi: "So the channel had a few other things up its sleeve to throw in that crucial first hour of existence: a measured tone (even when reporting on Syria) in an otherwise shrill Arabic-language media environment; an abaya-clad sports presenter breaking barriers in a male-dominated field; and a correspondent based in the Arab world's forbidden city – Damascus. These are the small assets that could make the big difference. ... Since the launch of the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera in 1996 and the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya in 2003, the mass of Arab viewers have grown accustomed to a reasonable level of quality in television journalism. ... But monopoly breeds excess. For years now, and particularly since the Arab Spring started, the big two have been plagued with accusations – by regimes and laypeople alike – of serving 'special agendas' and being too soft on their sponsoring governments. ... The Washington-sponsored Al Hurra was launched in 2004. It mostly kept a low profile after enjoying the brief newcomer's benefit-of-doubt period and, later, suffering budget cuts. Moscow launched its Russia Al Youm, Tehran its Al Alam, Paris its own France 24 Arabic, Beijing its CCTV Arabic and Turkey its TRT, all vying for ideological influence – not necessarily just a slice of the advertising market – in this increasingly strategic Middle East and North Africa region. Backed by decades of experience, a reputation for reliability and UK taxpayer money, BBC Arabic is still holding its own, offering a nice alternative to the big two."
The National, 8 May 2012, Saeed Saeed: "Sky News Arabia's mix of interactive graphics and its welcome detachment pose an interesting proposition to Arab audiences used to news tapping raw nerves or representing certain political or sectarian viewpoints. It also ushers a hitherto rare kind of owner into the Arabic media landscape: a commercial enterprise in territory that is largely, although not wholly, the domain of national governments and political parties. ... Before the satellite explosion of the 1980s, news in the region was limited to government-run television and radio stations. Those searching for foreign-based Arabic-language news had to invest in good radios to tune in to the likes of the BBC World Service, Voice of America and Radio Monte Carlo. ... The effect of Al Jazeera's coverage was the launch of several Arab news channels by foreign governments: Al Hurra (the US); Al Alam (Iran), Al Arabiya and Al Ekhbaria (Saudi Arabia), France 24 (France); and Rusiya Al Youm (Russia). These new players all came with catchy slogans promising objectivity, but at best presented a different viewpoint or at worse were glossy visual presentations of government press releases. It was the BBC's launch of its Arabic news television service in 2008 that saw a move away from the ideological and sectarian territory of Arabic satellite news channels. And the fact that it was the only BBC channel last year to escape heavy government cuts proves the that BBC Arabic plays a vital part in British diplomacy in the region."
Gulf News (Dubai), 8 May 2012, Shehab Al Makahleh: "Laura Streder, editor at the European Times, told Gulf News: 'In the past when Al Arabiya came on the scene it raised the same slogans that they will be number one to compete with Al Jazeera and when Al Jazeera had risen, it prided itself with objectivity and popularity amongst the young people as it addressed their issues and concerns. Every newcomer to the market would say that just for "local consumption" to show that they will be distinguished and highly professional in their coverage and programmes,' Streder said."
AFP, 8 May 2012: "The channel’s lead story was the French presidential election, with live coverage from the home of Francois Hollande, the front-runner in the poll, followed by a report on Syrian refugees on the Syria-Turkish border."
Broadcast, 8 May 2012, Chris Curtis: "Sky News Arabia also launched mobile apps on iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, and Android devices. Key features include live streaming, news photo galleries, interactive maps as well as the ability to share stories via social media. The website, www.skynewsarabia.com, which launched in beta form in February, is now fully completed with features including blogs from presenters and correspondents, live twitter feeds and the ability for users to interact and comment on the topics of the day."
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