Manama (AFP) – Outspoken billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Sunday launched a pan-Arab satellite news channel aimed at challenging established networks in the region.
From a studio lit in green and white, the Bahrain-based Alarab News Channel took to the air, leading with a story about Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, whom the Islamic State group claimed in a video late Saturday to have beheaded.
Alarab is the latest player in the Arabic-language television market, after Qatar-subsidised Al-Jazeera became the first regional news broadcaster 19 years ago.
It will also be a rival for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya, established in 2003 and owned by Sheikh Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of Saudi Arabia’s late King Fahd.
Alwaleed also belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of King Abdullah, who died on January 23.
Alwaleed, who holds no government rank, is unusual for his high profile and periodic comments about economic issues.
Critics have accused the established broadcasters of reflecting their owners’ political views, especially during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa. Both long-running channels deny any slant in their coverage.
Jamal Khashoggi, Alarab’s general manager, said the new channel will be even-handed.
“We are not going to take sides,” he told AFP in an interview.
“I think a news channel should not have a political agenda… We should just be a news channel that provides accurate, objective information.”