Sky News is to launch an Arabic-language version. Backed 50/50 by the wealthy Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, the new operation will be based alongside CNN’s new Abu Dhabi news bureau at twofour54, the fast-growing facility company.
However, while CNN’s bureau has just a handful of local staff Sky News’ Arabic service will have some 180 journalists, including multimedia staff, plus other technical and operation support.
Sky News is far from the only Arabic-language service. The market is lead by two well-established and powerful news channels, MBC’s Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera. Additional Arabic-language news comes from Nile News and others from the BBC, EuroNews and Russia’s Al-Yaum. There are more than 2 dozen other news channels available to viewers in what is a very competitive market.
Adrian Wells, previously Sky News’ Head of International News, has been appointed to work with the ADMIC team to launch the new channel and a Director of News will be appointed in due course to lead the venture on a permanent basis. “The joint venture with ADMIC provides Sky News with an opportunity to enter the large and fast-developing MENA marketplace with the support and expertise of a respected local partner,” said a Sky statement.
Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, Chairman of ADMIC and of the new venture, said: “The new channel will be an important, independent voice for the Arab world, providing accurate and in-depth reporting of all the interesting developments in the region. We intend to set a new standard for broadcasting in the Middle East and North Africa by combining the best practice, expertise and reputation for impartiality of global news leader Sky News with our regional knowledge and the world class infrastructure offered by Abu Dhabi and the twofour54 media zone.
The bigger question perhaps is whether this Sky News deal is a natural extension of News Corp’s increasingly robust commitment to the Middle East. News Corp is already extremely active via its partnership with Prince Al Waleed’s Rotana channels, for example, and News Corp’s Fox channels have widespread distribution throughout the region.