New Arab TV network goes to Bahrain


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The Independent Online

Bahrain is to host the headquarters for Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's new international Arabic news network, despite months of unrest.

Alwaleed's channel, dubbed Alarab, will be based in the capital Manama's new Media City office complex.

The network is expected to be launched next December with an initial staff of about 300 people.

The channel aims to focus "on the important shifts taking place across the Arab world, with an emphasis on freedom of speech and freedom of press," Prince Alwaleed has said.

The new channel will compete against older pan-Arab news networks bankrolled by wealthy Gulf backers, including Qatar's Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, which is funded by Saudi investors but based in Dubai.

Prince Alwaleed has signed a deal with business news service Bloomberg LP to provide content for Alarab. That could potentially put it in competition with Dubai-based business news channel CNBC Arabiya as well.

The Saudi prince, through the Kingdom Holding investment firm he controls, has a major stakes in Citigroup, Apple and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

He and the investment company last week invested a combined $300m into site Twitter, which played a key role in conveying developments during this year's Arab Spring uprisings.

The senior management of Prince Alwaleed's Rotana entertainment television division is also expected to move to Bahrain as part of the deal, according to the IAA. Rotana runs film and music video channels across the Middle East that draw on the company's extensive Arabic film and music catalogues.

Bahrain has been shaken by 10 months of large-scale protests, and clashes between security forces loyal to the Sunni monarchy and opposition groups led by the country's majority Shiites.

The kingdom's leadership is closely allied to Saudi Arabia, which looms large in Bahrain's domestic politics and provides vital tourist dollars. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states sent security forces into Bahrain at the invitation of the king to help put down the protests in March.