Date: May 08 2012
BEIRUT: Once a barren media landscape, now awash with ways to receive news, the Middle East boasts another pan-Arab news network, after Sky News Arabia switched on its transmitters.
Co-owned by BSkyB and launched on Sunday, the new arrival in the regional market will have the same pacy 24/7 approach as Sky News. It has spent the past year hiring and getting established in the heartland of its other shareholder, the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation, owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, who also owns the soccer club Manchester City.
Like its competitors - Al Arabiya, al-Jazeera and Alarab - Sky News Arabia claims a commitment to independence and reporting without fear or favour. ''They are going to see that we are different,'' says its head, Nart Bouran. ''The issue of balance is going to distinguish us.''
While viewers and broadcasters alike say true independence remains elusive in this part of the world, Bouran says he is determined to avoid partisanship.
''We won't have political programming, long discussions about issues. If we have analysis it will be about what's happening at the time. We won't get two guys who just want to kill each other.''
One key point of difference is Sky News Arabia will have an editorial advisory committee. ''That's the agreement between the two shareholders and the board and that's how everyone wants it to be. It's not just going to be left to me and my team.''
Sky News was a driving force in beginning the process just over a year ago with the Arab Spring in full swing. By then, Tunis and Cairo had fallen and Tripoli, Manama, Sanaa and Damascus were wobbling.
But the extraordinary geopolitical story left Sky stretched. It was clear the forces unleashed by the Arab world's popular revolts were going to take years, if not decades, to play out, far outstripping its capacity in manpower and expertise.
The war for influence and truth in the Middle East is bitterly contested, perhaps even more so as the stakes rise in the wake of revolution.
Guardian News & Media
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