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Sky News to launch foreign language service

Sky News today announced plans for its first foreign language service in a move that will see it broadcast in Arabic across the Middle East and north Africa.

The free-to-watch channel will be run as a joint-venture between satellite broadcaster BSkyB and Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, owned by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is best-known in the UK for buying Manchester City football club.

Sky News' Arabic service will start broadcasting from 2012 and will employ 180 journalists providing round-the-clock news that can be viewed via a television channel, its website and mobile phones.

The service will be based in Abu Dhabi but will have offices in London and Washington DC, and will make use of Sky News' network of reporters across the globe.

BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: "Sky News is already one of the world's leading news services and now we're looking forward to bringing a new voice to Arabic audiences.

"The Middle East and North Africa is undergoing rapid development and we are able to enter this dynamic marketplace with the support and expertise of a strong local partner."

The service will be set up under the guidance of Sky News' former head of international news Adrian Wells before a permanent director of news is appointed.

Sky News became Europe's first 24-hour news channel when it launched in 1989 and now broadcasts to 145 million people in 36 countries in Europe, and is also watched in Asia and Africa.

Its latest move, which it described as "a significant step" in its development, will see it compete head-to-head with Arabic stations including Al Jazeera.

The Doha-based company's English language service launched in the UK on Sky's paid-for TV service in 2006. It went free-to-air on the Freesat digital satellite service in 2008 and started broadcasting on Freeview in July, doubling its availability in the UK.