BBC to launch news channel for Arabic region

MUMBAI: UK pubcaster the BBC will strengthen its multimedia news services for the Arab world by launching a TV news channel alongside its existing radio and online offer next week.

BBC Arabic Television – the BBC's news and information channel in the Arabic language – launches on 11 March 2008. Initially broadcast for 12 hours a day, the television channel is part of the BBC's integrated multimedia news service for the Arab world. It will move to 24/7 in the summer and is the BBC's first publicly-funded international television service.

BBC Arabic is already available on air and on-demand 24 hours a day, seven days a week on radio, on the internet through, on mobiles and on handheld computers – in whatever way best suits the audience.

BBC Arabic Television will be freely available to everyone with a satellite or cable connection in the region, whether they are in North Africa, the Middle East or the Gulf. BBC Arabic Television will be distributed on the Arabsat, Eutelsat and Nilesat satellite systems.

The TV channel's schedule includes news headlines every 15 minutes and a full news summary every 30 minutes. On-the-spot news coverage will be delivered by 250 correspondents reporting from 72 bureaux around the world – the biggest newsgathering team in the world. Additional regional expertise comes from an extensive network of local reporters and correspondents.

The channel also features news and current affairs programmes such as the twice-daily Newshour, which highlights news, analysis, key interviews and debate on the top events making the news in the region and around the world that day.

It also features the pioneering live multimedia interactive debating forum Nuqtat Hewar, already popular on radio and online, three days a week. A showcase of the best BBC documentaries and specially produced in-depth reports from the Arab world will reinforce the TV schedule. Its presenters will include Rania Al Alattar; Fida Bassil; Tony El-Khoury; Dalia Mohamed; Osman Ayfarah; Hasan Muawad; Lina Musharbash; and Dina Waqqaf.

BBC World Service director Nigel Chapman says, "BBC Arabic is renowned for broadcasting impartial and accurate news and information which is strong on analysis and expertise. This enhanced multimedia service meets the needs of an audience with a very strong appetite for news and debate. We will be contemporary in style and independent and incisive in our journalism."

The TV channel launch will be accompanied by a major relaunch of to include embedded video and a new media player. The radio schedule has been extensively refreshed to reflect the new multimedia approach.

More than 13 million people currently listen to BBC Arabic every day, while its website receives more than 21 million page impressions and has over one million unique users each month. Chapman adds, "We are encouraged that independent research consistently shows an appetite for a BBC Arabic Television channel. The main reason people give is quite simple – it is because they believe the BBC will provide an independent news service they could trust."

Independent research over recent years consistently shows that existing Arab audiences to the BBC regard it as the most trusted, impartial and objective international radio news provider in the Arab world, with an established reputation for quality. BBC Arabic's award-winning 24/7 online news and information service also enjoys high levels of trust in its content.

BBC Arabic head Hosam El Sokkari says, "BBC Arabic is already renowned for reporting more than just conflict and politics. BBC Arabic aims to continue to broaden the news agenda for audiences in the region. It will reflect the breadth of the Arab audience's interests.

"The BBC is the largest newsgathering organisation in the world. Only it can make the unique offer to Arab audiences. It can be their ears and eyes – not just in the countries where people live, but throughout the region and around the rest of the world.

"The BBC is uniquely experienced in bringing the key stories of the region and the world to Arab audiences. Because BBC World Service has a genuinely international perspective, it is also best placed to take the views, key issues and real lives of our Arab audiences to a wider global audience. No-one else has our multimedia strength on television, on radio, online and on any multimedia device people want their news delivered.

"We will offer comprehensive multimedia news reporting and analysis to audiences and, in turn, involve Arab audiences in an authentic dialogue on the issues that reflect their lives."

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