Sky News launches in UAE

The Arabic-language news channel, an offshoot of the UK station, is owned by British parent and Sheikh Mansour.

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ABU DHABI // Sky News Arabia hit the "on" button tonight, as the 24-hour news station started beaming live to more than 50 million homes from its Abu Dhabi base.

The Arabic-language news channel, an offshoot of the UK station, went live at 8pm UAE time.

Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, the chairman of Sky News Arabia, said the station would aim to meet demand for a "high-calibre, independent news channel" about the Arab world.

"I am confident Sky News Arabia will become an icon for objective news reporting," Dr Al Jaber said.

More than 400 staff have been recruited to work at Sky News Arabia at its Abu Dhabi hub and in 12 bureau across the globe.

It has started broadcasting to over 50 million homes across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as over the internet and mobile apps.

The French presidential elections were among the top news stories of the day after the channel went live.

The main sports item was a victory by the Manchester City football club, which is owned by Abu Dhabi investors - attracting cheers from the crowd at the Sky News Arabia launch.

The new station hopes to take on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya in winning audiences hungry for news in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The two older stations currently jostle for top position in various markets. Al Arabiya is the most popular news channel in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, for example, while Al Jazeera is the leader in Morocco, according to the Arab Media Outlook.

It will also compete with Alarab, a station being launched by the Saudi Arabian billionaire Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, which is set to be based in Bahrain.

Sky News Arabia is part of a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation (Admic), a private investment company owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, and British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB).

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which has been hit hard by the "phone hacking" scandal in the UK, holds a stake in BSkyB.