BBC considering Arabic channel
The World Service may take on al-Jazeera
By Ronan McGreevy
THE BBC World Service is to examine setting up an Arabic 24-hour television station which would broadcast in the Middle East, at the request of the Government.
The new station which would have news, documentaries and discussion programmes would broadcast in opposition to Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite station which currently has more than 40 million viewers in the Middle East.
The United States already has its own Arabic language news channel in the Middle East. Al Hurra was set up in February to counter a perceived anti-Western bias in much of the Arabic media, but has struggled to build an audience.
The Foreign Office funds the BBC World Service and has asked the BBC to examine the feasibility of another 24-hour station.
A BBC spokesman said that the proposal, which is noncommercial, is “under discussion as part of the Foreign Office and the Treasury’s spending review process”.
The station could be modelled on BBC World, the corporations’s 24-hour international news channel, and would have initial costs of £28 million a year.