Bahrain will host the headquarters for Saudi billionaire Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal's new Arabic news network after it beat Beirut and major Gulf cities in the tough competition for the channel's headquarters.
"The IAA is signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Al Arab News channel, the newest channel in Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal's successful media empire," said Shaikh Fawaz Bin Mohammad Al Khalifa, the president of the Information Affairs Authority (IAA).
"Al Arab News will be partnered with Bloomberg and will be broadcasting internationally in Arabic," Shaikh Fawaz told journalists at a press conference. A deal has been signed with business news service Bloomberg to provide content for Al Arab News.
Al Arab News will be based in Manama's new Media City office complex, Shaikh Fawaz said. The network is expected to be launched in December 12, 2012 with an initial staff of about 300 people.
The management of Rotana media network is also relocating its offices to Bahrain. Rotana is an Arab language media network with 12 entertainment channels including LBC, Fox Movies Channel and Fox Series Channel.
"This will entail the relocation of about 100 of its management team to Bahrain," the IAA head said.
Shaikh Fawaz who was given the information portfolio in July 2010 said that Rotana Network and Al Arab News channel are expected to serve as an anchor in the new Manama-based Media City and should be instrumental in attracting other reputable media organisations to Bahrain.
"The IAA is constantly looking to improve its performance in the field of media" Shaikh Fawaz said. "Despite all the circumstances Bahrain went through over the past year, we were able to successfully compete with other media centres in the Gulf to be selected to host Al Arab News and the Rotana Network. This is big news for Bahrain and our dedicated team at the IAA will make every effort to contribute to the success of this new venture," he said.
In September, Al Waleed Bin Talal said that the channel's editorial line would pay particular attention to freedom of speech.
The channel will cover political, economic and social issues related to Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. However, he said that the channel would not receive instructions from the Saudi information ministry and that he would fund it for the next ten years using his own money. Bloomberg will provide five hours of business news per day for the channel.
Jamal Khashoggi, former editor of Al Watan, an independent newspaper in Saudi Arabia, will head the channel set to compete with Doha-based Al Jazeera and Dubai-based Al Arabiya in the pan-Arab news channel market.
On Monday, Shaikh Fawaz said that Bahrain had agreed on deals with international audio-visual companies to boost local skills and enhance the media landscape.
"Contracts with major international media organisations have been completed and they will contribute to training and providing programming in an effort to improve the services provided through the Bahrain Radio and Television Corporation (BRTC)."
The accords were with the France-based Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA), Broadcasting Board of Governors for Voice of America (BBG/VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Shaikh Fawaz said.
A contract with Somera, a Paris-based broadcasting corporation for radio programming in French and Arabic, was renewed and will run through 2016, the IAA said.