BBC gears up for Arabic TV launch

The BBC has confirmed it is to launch a new Arabic television service in autumn 2007, putting the channel head to head against German, Russian and French rivals also due to launch in the Middle East.

The service will be the first part of the BBC's global news division to move into the newly-redeveloped Broadcasting House, with 200 journalists working on Arabic language radio, television and online.

Salah Negm, who left the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation in Dubai to join the new BBC Arabic service as news editor, said: "We're aiming to be fast, modern in style and outlook, and strong on analysis with a wide international perspective. It will maintain the BBC values of accuracy, editorial independence and impartiality, while balancing a wide diversity of views."

A previous BBC Arabic television service began broadcasting in March 1994, but closed two years later following criticism of its editorial approach in the Arab world and allegations that it was culturally insensitive to Islamic issues.

This time the corporation said that BBC Arabic Television will have "broad appeal", free from commercial, political and religious affiliations or pressures.

Jerry Timmins (pictured), head of Africa and the Middle East at BBC World Service, said: "With the Arabic service's trusted reputation in the Middle East, and our new found ability to provide news and information across any device the audience chooses, the BBC will be in a unique position in the Arab world."

The channel will initially provide 12 hours a day of news and information. BBC Arabic radio has already been broadcasting across the Middle East for 70 years, and the corporation's online operation is also well established.

Head of BBC Arabic Hosam El Sokkari said: "We have a unique opportunity with one service creating content, shared across three media in the same place under a unified editorial leadership and with a shared technical backbone."

In recent years, the Middle East has witnessed a boom in satellite television news and media consumption, and a number of international broadcasters have expressed interest in establishing a presence in the region.

BBC Arabic Television is part of the World Service and is currently recruiting senior editoral staff ahead of its launch.

German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle is preparing to broadcast as much as 24 hours of daily news programming in Arabic this autumn. Russia Today has similar plans backed by a $40 million budget and a new French channel, France 24, is expected to launch an Arabic service in 2007.

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