Saudi Arabia opens door for satellite channels

Riyad Najm, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s Audio-Visual Media Commission (AVMC), and a former senior official in the county’s information ministry, said the Kingdom was revisiting how it regulated and licensed broadcasters and on-line news websites.  He even hinted that cinemas might be allowed.  His wide-ranging discussion to Riyadh’s Press Forum he also discussed the possibility of public Saudi Radio & Television, and the Ministry of Culture & Information, being rolled into a new media-based entity.

BBC Monitoring is reporting that the AVMC is examining how the Commission will work in the future, and in particular how a Saudi-based media centre might operate, and Mr Najm urged the Saudi-financed channels which operate outside the Kingdom to “invest in the homeland” and that they could rely on Saudi Arabia providing the core infrastructure.

Najm said some 40 per cent of Saudi-owned channels were “waiting for the chance” to operate in Saudi Arabia. Najm promised that the commission will “employ all of its capabilities to support and facilitate the tasks of these channels. He added that he realizes the difficulty of the return of major channels that transmit from outside the kingdom due to the huge investment they made,” said the BBC report.

Najm spoke of the multi tasks of the commission, especially after it became responsible for online publication; the Saudi Radio and Television Corporation; and the extent to which the role of the Ministry of Culture and Information – which might be dissolved later – has diminished. He said that some 80 per cent of the ministry’s tasks were assigned to these entities, while the ministry is currently focusing its attention on culture.

Speaking of cinemas [there are no cinemas in Saudi Arabia] and the possibility of issuing licences to movie theatres, as is the case in most countries across the world, Najm said: “The issue of cinemas has become socially sensitive. We know that some channels and Internet websites present material without restrictions. However, cinemas can be regulated. In general, we welcome any ideas that conform to the kingdom’s Shari’a-based regulations. We pay more attention to content rather than form.”

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