Sky News Arabia on track for 2012 launch

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Sky News Arabia today said that it is on track for launch in Spring next year, having recruited 70 of the 370 staff it requires to run the 24-hour station.

The Abu Dhabi-based news operation, a joint-venture between BSkyB and the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation (Admic), says an additional 100 staff are ready to join, with the remaining 200 to be recruited by the end of 2011.

The National asked Nart Bouran, the station's director of news, about the launch.

Q. What is the progress on establishing Sky News Arabia, and do you have an exact launch date yet?

Technical, IT and broadcast infrastructure is now being deployed at the Sky News Arabia's main studio, which was handed over in June 2011. The channel's network of international bureaus will come on-stream by the end of the year, in readiness for the channel's launch.

Q. How many staff have been recruited and what is the total number of people that Sky News Arabia will employ?

Seventy full time staff have been recruited in the in the past six months alone. A further 100 are under mobilization joining shortly. We are planning for another 200 people to be recruited by the end of 2011. As of today Sky News Arabia has received over 12,000 applications for 370 advertised vacancies.

Q. How does Sky News Arabia plan to compete with Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, as well as Alarab, another news station set for launch next year?

We believe that consumer media consumption is becoming more sophisticated in the Mena region, and consequently there is an increased requirement for truly independent, multi-platform news brands to deliver accurate, unbiased and fast coverage of regional and international news events.

Q. Has the confirmation that Alarab is definitely launching next year changed any of Sky News Arabia's plans?

Sky News Arabia and its parent companies, BSkyB and Admic, remain committed to the channel's launch in 2012.

Q. Do you see the launch of two pan-Arab TV-news stations prompting an increase in total advertising spending on Arab news stations? Or will it be a case of 'survival of the fittest'?

A more important question in our view relates to the commercial size of the advertising industry in the region rather than the number of media outlets. If the Arab news industry is worried about the further reduction of the commercial pie by further slicing, then our challenge will be how to expand the size of the pie instead of thinking of the size of each slice.

The TV advertising market in the whole Arab region is on par with a single country like Turkey with a population of 70 million. The Arab world has a population of 350 million from Mauritania to Bahrain, we should not feel we have to work according to an allowed quota of news channels

We believe competition is good and healthy. It ensures the best will survive. It also ensures that the winner ultimately is the audience.

Q. Alarab's Jamal Khashoggi tweeted that Alarab is going to be "to the left of Al-Arabiya and to the right of Al-Jazeera." Where will Sky News Arabia figure on this political spectrum?

Sky News Arabia aims to bring a truly independent approach to broadcasting the news which will culminate in an Arabic news channel that stands apart from its peers or political affiliations.