BSkyB to launch an Arabic news station

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SATELLITE broadcaster BSkyB has teamed up with the owner of Manchester City football club to set up an Arabic news channel based in Abu Dhabi.

The channel will be Sky’s first foreign-language news venture, putting it in direct competition in the Middle East with BBC Arabic, Al-Arabiya and state-funded Al-Jazeera.

Man City owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s investment vehicle Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp (ADMIC) agreed after months of talks to fund half of the joint venture, which will operate under the Sky News brand.

Sky said yesterday the free-to-air channel will begin broadcast across the Middle East and parts of Africa from 2012.

BSkyB chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “The Middle East and North Africa is undergoing rapid development and our partnership with ADMIC means we are able to enter this dynamic marketplace with the support and expertise of a strong local partner.”

Sky News’ head of international news Adrian Wells has been drafted in to help launch the new channel. Sky said a permanent director of news will be appointed in due course.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, energy consultant for the Abu Dhabi government and chairman of Sheik Mansour’s newly formed investment fund, will head the new venture.

Sky broadcasts its UK-based Sky News channel across Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and currently operates standalone news channels in Germany, Italy, Australia and India.

News Corporation, which is currently bidding for the 61 per cent in BSkyB it does not own, bought a 9.09 per cent stake in Saudi-based media company Rotana in February. The firm operates 11 free-to-air channels in the Middle East.

Ofcom is due to report in January on whether News International’s offer to buy the rest of BSkyB restricts competition.

Shares in BSkyB closed down 0.2 per cent yesterday at 719p.