Al Arab, Bahrain backing revealed

A promised Arabic news channel, Al Arab, financed by Saudi billionaire Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, is building up to start transmission from its HQ in Bahrain helped by considerable financial incentives from Bahrain.

The channel was first mooted in July 2010, and at that time News Corp was said to be involved. Later, in September 2011, it was reported that the channel would now be a privately-financed venture by the prince, who also controls the Rotana group of music and film channels.

In December 2011 it was formally announced that Bahrain was to be the channel’s main location, with Prince al-Waleed saying that his channel would take “the centre’s point of view” between rivals Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

The original deal between Prince al-Waleed and Bahrain, and revealed by the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi on January 21st, talks of Bahrain paying annual support for the channel of $10 million a year for 10 years, plus the cost of services which are underwritten to the tune of another $2.5 million a year. Additionally, Al Arab was to be compensated for the redesign and equipment costs for re-fitting out an office block, and can occupy the offices rent-free for 10 years.

The prince’s Rotana operation is also said to be moving to Bahrain in return for an annual contribution to its costs of $7 million a year for 10 years, plus a one-off payment of $10 million for equipping an office block to house the company’s 150 staff.

The channel is to be business-focused, and has linked with Bloomberg TV.  The channel is expected to launch during this half-year as a free-to-view service.

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