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Saudi Arabian billionaire, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, has closed his Al-Arab news channel. Official notices were issued to staff on February 6th saying that the channel would close immediately.
Al-Arab had struggled from its debut in February 2015 when from its Bahrain headquarters it controversially interviewed a Bahraini opposition figure. Bahrain closed the channel within a few hours of the broadcast, and despite numerous reports that it would re-establish itself in places as far afield as London and Cyprus, it has stayed silent since 2015.
Prince Al-Waleed, who has numerous other media and broadcasting interests, said in March last year that his channel would re-launch from a new base in Qatar. However, Qatar is also home to Al-Jazeera and it was always questioned as to why the country would want to host a channel backed by Saudi Arabian cash, no matter how independent the Prince was seen to be.
Al-Waleed heads up Kingdom Holdings which has shareholdings in 21st Century Fox/News Corp and is reportedly a major shareholder in bankers Citigroup as well as well-publicised stakes in EuroDisney and Saudi Research & Marketing. Reportedly his holdings include a 95 per cent stake in movies-to-music empire Rotana and 90 per cent of LBC Sat, which transmits throughout the Arab world from Beirut.