Is Murdoch behind Alwaleed’s News Channel Plan?
First Published: 2010-04-27
The new news channel would borrow from the business model used at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox and Sky News channels while broadcasting different content in the Middle East. This is bad news for the Arab audience, since both channels mentioned are seen as biased and degrading towards Arabs and Muslims, notes Iqbal Tamimi.
The Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal has a wealth of $18bn, by which he can play whatever games he chooses and buy whatever toys he like to experiment with, including racing against Al-Jazeera satellite channel or even stick his tongue out to the Saudi news Channel Al-Arabiya.
TV is the most important media platform in the Arab World, where viewership is one of the highest in the world in terms of the time individuals spend watching TV.
People in the Arab Region watch 13% more television per day than people in Europe and 53% more than people in the Asia Pacific region. Only people in North America watch more TV. It has even been found that one of the GCC countries, Kuwait, watch television more than any other place in the world. And while Kuwait is the nation with the highest level of television viewing in the world, Saudi Arabia and UAE are in the top five, according to Eurodata TV Worldwide, EGEDA Association.
Alwaleed has the wealth needed for such project, and he has the backing up and the professional support and expertise of his new media partner the Australian American media mogul Rupert Murdoch; even though while Prince Alwaleed was talking to Bloomberg TV yesterday, he said the channel “is something I will be doing personally”. He also said that the channel wouldn’t be produced through Kingdom Holding or Rotana.
Prince Alwaleed is the world’s richest Arab, he could have bought the Saudi news Chanel Alarabiya if he wanted to, but it seems that he has a surprise up his sleeve, or it could be what many media analysts were suspecting. Murdoch started occupying the Arab World by sharing the toys of Alwaleed.
According to Bloomberg, the new news channel would borrow from the business model used at Rupert Murdoch’s Fox and Sky News channels while broadcasting different content in the Middle East. This is bad news for the Arab audience, since both channels mentioned are seen as biased and degrading towards Arabs and Muslims since they project the image of Arabs and Muslims as terrorists ignorant savages, guilty until proven innocent while at the same time Murdoch never miss an opportunity without declaring his total support of Israel.
How will Alwaleed’s news channel deal with such issues, how will he deal with Saudi related controversial issues of breaches of human rights? Who is going to be in the driving seat? Is he going to be in the front seat while Murdoch is driving from the back by remote control? And what kind of employees Alwaleed will be shopping for? Is he going to attract a majority of a certain nationality who made the media establishments they are working for a family business as another Arab TV channel did? Will he be able to offer proper professional training to his employees or will he do what the other Arab news satellite did when it has left the beautiful looking faces experiment with the current affairs screen while the management kept camouflaging their mistakes over and over again, even though such darling faces are still failing the pronunciation test.
Alwaleed said that he plans to sell a stake in his media company Rotana Holding to the public within two years. So, it seems that he is departing gradually from the entertainment business, to be part of the control game. I hope he understands that this line of business needs intellectual and professionals and not pretty faces, and not to fall into the trap of trying to please some authorities by allocating certain number of opportunities to GCC workers, regardless of their abilities to handle the news kitchen, in an attempt to nationalize his project and gain the blessings of the elders.
Rotana agreed in February to sell a 9.1 percent stake to Murdoch’s News Corp for $70m as the company seeks television, movie, production and technology expertise. But the worries stem now from the fact that the Arab nations do NOT trust Murdoch. If Alwaleed can keep Murdoch busy with the entertainment side of game, by keeping a distance from the news project, Alwaleed might shift the pyramid of news production in the Arab world and create hopefully a descent professional platform that represent the Arab audience not the political systems.