Kuwait's crowded news market likely to see further closures

Kuwait's daily Arabic-language newspaper Arrouiah has closed due to the lack of advertising revenue in an increasingly competitive local print market, it emerged this morning.

Up to 200 staff at the newspaper face redundancy, after the investment company which owns the title decided to close it due to mounting debts. "There are two reasons for the closure: there is no [advertising] income, and there is no political income," Saud Al Sebeiei, the editor-in-chief of Arrouiah, told me earlier. The daily newspaper is owned by Al Imtiaz Investment, which confirmed its ownership of the title, but would not comment further, when contacted by The National. Mr Al Sebeiei claimed that Ghanim Al Saad, the chairman of Al Imtiaz and a prominent Qatari businessman, had withdrawn support for the newspaper. "The government of Qatar support the chairman, and [they say] there's no need for a newspaper in Kuwait," said Mr Al Sebeiei. According to a report in Kuwait Times, former Kuwaiti minister Shareeda Al-Maousherji, who is among the paper's founders and co-owners, had expressed a wish to buy the newspaper, but was unwilling to purchase it with its current debt. Mr Al Sebeiei said the "chairman of Imtiaz cannot agree for [the minister] to buy the newspaper" without also taking on the debt. As The National reported earlier this week, Kuwait has a crowded news market, with 80 print publications, including magazines, against a population of just 3.05 million. Arrouiah is the third newspaper to stop publishing, following the closure of the Arabic titles Awan and Al Sawt earlier this year. "This is not the first publication to have closed - it's the third," Walid Kanafani, the general manager of media planning company MEC in Kuwait, told me earlier. Mr Kanafani said there were once only five Arabic dailies in Kuwait. But a move by Kuwait's Ministry of Information to grant further licenses saw the number of Arabic and English daily newspapers grow to almost 20. "Five newspapers was more than enough for the Kuwait market," said Mr Kanafani. "[Advertising] budgets are very limited these days - you can not split it among all the publications. There are still too many, of course. I feel that a few other publications will close too." According to analysts, the leading Arabic daily newspapers in Kuwait are Al Watan, Al Rai and Al Anbaa.

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