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Monday, September 21, 2009

Syria plans to launch a news TV channel

Al-Quds al-Arabi has learnt that a serious proposal has emerged in Syria about launching an official Syrian satellite news channel, which will be part of the radio and television corporation channels that are under the direct control of the leadership in Damascus.

If things go as planned without any media or political obstacles, the expected channel might be launched within one and a half to two years. It will constitute a Syrian political window on the world with a discourse meant to be different from that of other official Syrian media institutions.

A higher committee composed of public figures from the Syrian Information Ministry and the Radio and Television Corporation has been formed to lay down the broad lines and undertake a feasibility study of the planned channel.

Dr Mumtaz al-Shaykh, director-general of the Syrian Radio and Television Corporation, stressed to Al-Quds al-Arabi that the recently created news centre, which is part of "mablicon [name as transliterated]," is intended to be the basis of the news channel that Syria wants to establish. He added that 90 per cent of the technical requirements of the launching of this channel are secured, and what remains is just linking it to one of the existing satellites.

With regard to the human resources, Dr Al-Shaykh affirmed that the staff to operate this channel will be selected and trained before it is launched. It includes technicians, editors, broadcasters and correspondents. This will be done with the help of international institutions that have great expertise in satellite television training. He emphasized that it is hoped that this channel will compete with the most outstanding existing news channels.

If the project is completed and the channel is launched, experts expect the latter to play a major role in marketing the Syrian discourse worldwide. In this connection, Syria terribly lost the media war that erupted in the wake of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, and its information then seemed confused and weak in the face of the cruel attacks on the part of a range of information media supporting the 14 March team, as well as the Saudi and Egyptian government media.

This prompted Syria to review its calculations regarding the media, and to prepare adequate ground for an official information service that will be much stronger in the event of future confrontations that can happen at any time.

Al-Quds al-Arabi has learned that, before launching the satellite channel in question, and even before starting preparations for its launch, there was a conviction of the need for a large political margin to be made available in choosing the substance of the news, especially that concerning the domestic political situation. Also, the fact that there exist opinions that are different from ours should be accepted, and this should be reflected in the various newscasts of the channel in question. Moreover, there should not be any waiting for higher directives to come from here or there before broadcasting a report, and, similarly, assertions by the official news agency, SANA [Syrian Arab News Agency], should not be taken for granted.

Most importantly, it should be accepted that the channel's work and discourse might not be to the liking of all the decisionmaking partisan, political and security circles in Syria. Thus, the channel should be free from the need for a consensus and the approval of these circles.

According to information received by Al-Quds al-Arabi, the construction and operational cost of the channel in question could reach 1 billion Syrian lira (22m dollars). The Syrian leadership is prepared to pay this cost, and even more, if the channel fulfils all its objectives.

Quoting official circles, some make comments to the effect that the Syrian media discourse is not keeping abreast of the political and diplomatic moves of the Syrian leadership. They affirm that, while no one knows the essential reason for this situation, everybody knows its remote causes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lebanese bloggers meet

Thanks to RFI's (Radio France Internationale) Philippe Couve and Pierre Haski, a meeting was held yesterday ion Beirut with a number of Lebanese bloggers.

It was great, discussions included blogger freedom, why the number of bloggers decreased after the 2006 war etc..

Thks to RFI and everyone's contributions!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Murdoch 's move into the Arab world

The Wall Street Journal reported today that Rupert Murdoch - the Australian media mogul (owner amongst other things of the Fox channels and a large number of US/UK and Australian tabloids) is negotiating with Walid Ben Talal to acquire 20% stake in Rotana Media Group (Rotana Channels + LBC Sat etc...)

Rotana is already the owner/manager of Fox Middle East (Fox Series and Fox Movies)

This come sin light of various rumors saying that Walid Ben Talal has lost a lot of money...and is in big need for fresh cash.

The interesting thing will be how Murdoch's entry into the Arab world will be perceived (his media were Georges Bush's best support...) expect some problems....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Something is changing in Saudi media

Saudi Minister of Information - Mr. Khoja - is starting to put his "reformist" touch to Saudi TV - and I am not talking about religious changes - but modernizing Saudi TV.

The first step was KSA 1's partnering with major media groups such as MBC.

The second step will be corporatizing Saudi TV: Instead of it being a department within the Ministry of Information, a company (fully Government owned) will be formed to run the Saudi channels.
This should bring about modernizing the processes, the organization and why not later on introducing advertisements...(to see)

This Government owned company, is exactly what Dubai and Abu Dhabi governments have successfully done:
- Dubai Media Inc
- Abu Dhabi Media Company

I'll be watching these changes and will keep you updated.

This modernization should also be read in light of the "crackdown" the Saudi Government has done on Saudi owned - but private - channels: such as the LBC Sat case (cf: my previous posts) Is Mr. Khoja playing a great equilibrium game? (give some there, to gain somewhere else???) Whatever the case, Mr. Khoja seems to be the right man for modernizing the Saudi TV!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Saudi Men Watch too much TV

Saudi males are lazy, eat too much junk food and spend too much time in front of the television, an Arab health and nutrition expert has said.

Dr Abdullah Musaiqir, head of the Arab Centre for Nutrition, warned of increasing obesity in the Gulf states, and particularly Saudi Arabia, and cited a Saudi study showing that more than 53 percent of Saudi males live a “lethargic lifestyle”.

Only 20 percent of Saudi males were described as leading a healthy lifestyle and engaging in activities that helped keep them in good physical shape, reported Saudi Gazette on Wednesday.

Twenty seven percent were described by the study as having a “partially active” lifestyle, Musaiqir told the paper.

Parents, he said, should cut down on TV watching time for both themselves and their children, and to remove television sets from dining rooms and bedrooms.

Musaiqir said the first steps towards promoting a healthier lifestyle should come with awareness programmes conducted throughout the Gulf with media involvement, and that school and university curricula should be improved to address issues of nutrition and public health.


Monday, August 17, 2009

HD TV coming to the Arab world

High Definition TV (HDTV) will soon be a reality in the Arab world.

Abu Dhabi TV announced that it will start broadcasting in the UAE its new Abu Dhabi HD channel. programs will initially feature documentaries and sports with some movies it seems.

This is a big step in the Arab media scene. But we are still along way to go for TV channels to invest in HD equipment, and for users to have access to the technology. But gotta start somewhere!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

LBC Sat and Saudi Arabia: the sex scandal

As most of the readers of this blog know by now, LBC Sat's office in Jeddah has been closed by the Saudi Ministry of Information and Culture. This happened after LBC's "Ahmar Bil Khat Al Arid" showed the "confession" of a Saudi man, recalling how he had numerous sexual encounters with many Saudi women. The witness, explained how to pick up Saudi women using Bluetooth etc...

The interesting thing is LBC Sat's reaction. Silence (what can they say, they rely on Saudi ad money and LBC Sat is partly owned by Saudi prince Walid Bin Talal),and most unexpectedly... reruns!

Indeed, LBC Sat has been rerunning a 3-4 month old interview with Saudi Minister of Information and Culture, Abdel Aziz Khoja, where he proclaims how he wants to work with private owned Satellite channels (such as LBC Sat) and how the freedom of these channels is good for Saudi Arabia.

That said, the interview itself is quite interesting. Mr. Khoja is very candid and talks openly about the media, internet, freedom, Saudi problems etc...

Friday, July 24, 2009

China's Arabic TV

China's CCTV will start today (Saturday 25th July) its Arabic language broadcasting. The channel aims at "enhancing China's image in the Middle East"

This comes after CCTV's English, French and Spanish services.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Jordan and the Media Tax

Jordan's government was planning to cancel a media tax on advertising revenues (currently set at 5%). The Senate Education Committee rejected this cancellation and proposed lowering the tax to 1% of ad revenues.
The Senate has now to approve this change.

Monday, June 15, 2009

LAST MINUTE: Arabiya in Iran closed


Iranian authorities closed this morning Al Arabiya's office in Teheran. This happened as internal fighting is happening in the Iranian capital over the contested presidential elections (Ahmadinejad vs. Moussavi)

Various Arab media news

Dear Blog followers,

Sorry for not updating the blog, but we have been busy preparing reports and studies on the Lebanese elections, Obama's visit and Ahmadinejad's relection.

Here is some of the "best" you missed this last period:

1) Rotana Music finally moved out of Beirut, destination...Egypt (we had announced Amman); it turns out Jordan was indeed in the short list, but Egypt was finally selected as Rotana already broadcasts some programs from there.

2) Lebanon's Al Akhbar announced that LBC's Pierre EL Daher and Walid Ben Talal had a fallout(to be followed)

3) CNN was voted the "favorite news channel" by a panel of Arab voters (from the top earners) followed by BBC, Jazeera, CNBC and then Euronews (Study by Sinofit)

4 ) The Arab Media Forum was held this year. We attended the debates in Dubai. I have to say it was quite interesting. Especially when Arabiya's Nabil El Khatib faced Jazeera's Ahmed El Sheikh and BBC Arabic team; to discus the Gaza war coverage. Debates were heated as to the content of the coverage. Unfortunately, the content experts that Comtrax Solutions is, we did not have time to provide the necessary data to show scientifically how the coverage was.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Media visibility

For all of you french speakers, here are my latest media interventions in French

Small interview on France 24
Subject: MTV's reopening

Interview on RFI (Radio France International)
Subjects: Electoral campaign in Lebanon (I am in the middle of the recording)

Our program on MTV

Dear Blog fans,

Please make sure to take a look at the program MTV Lebanon (MTV Al Lubnaniya) is producing, and for which my company (Comtrax Solutions) is the data provider.

The program is called "Bil Arkam" it runs right before the evening newscast (at 19h50 Lebanese time, 16h50 GMT) The 3 minutes program is a daily comparison of how Lebanese newscasts approached the news from the day before.

Be sure to watch it! Your comments are welcome

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Censorship or protection ?

A project presented by Senate members in the US (backed by President Obama it seems), calls for banning a certain number of Arab channels from broadcasting in the US. These channels include:
- Manar TV (Lebanon - Hezbollah)
- Al Aqsa TV (Palestine - Hamas)
- Zawrak (Iraq)
- Al Rafidain (Iraq)

I think the US forgot something called internet now exists....

Saturday, April 18, 2009


In the battle between MBC Group and Fox Middle East (part of the Rotana/LBC network) MBC just scored a major deal. It acquired the rights to broadcast first the Warner Bros series for the seasons 2009-2011.

This deal will enable MBC2 (English movies) and MBC Action (Series) to continue the current edge they have over new comers Fox Series and Fox Movies.

For viewers this is a great deal, as the series will be broadcasted Free To Air.

That said, when Fox Middle East will get back the rights to the Fox Studios (currently held by MBC) the battle is bound to heat up between the two groups. A little bit of competition, can only be great for viewers.

Finally, I was watching the Simpsons yesterday on Fox Series, and I am appalled by the huge number of advertising breaks (all for teh same advertiser: Sedar curtains) Even worst, these breaks always happen in the middle of a conversation between two characters. If Fox wants to compete in the Middle East, they gonna have to work on these issues

Thursday, April 9, 2009

TV Advertising

A report I saw this morning on "Digital Production Middle East"'s website:

TV advertising spend in the Middle East and African (MEA) region is projected to increase 25 percent from 2008 to 2013, despite expectations the current economic downturn will extend well into 2010.

The assessment is one of the key findings of Informa Telecom’s TV International report, published Tuesday.
The projection places the MEA region ahead of all others worldwide, with revenues expected to grow from just over US$10 billion in 2008 to almost US$13 billion in 2013.
In contrast, North America is expected to suffer a contraction in TV advertising revenues of around seven percent from 2008 to 2010, before rebounding over the course of the following three years to post growth of around nine percent on 2008 levels in 2013, equating to more than $46 billion.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

First comments on MTV

Yesterday MTV resumed broadcast with a very emotional program on how the channel was closed in 2002.

The evening was dedicated to announcing all the new programs. Well by announcing, I mean announcing "when possible" the new grid. Many of the presenters featured last night, admitted they did not know when their program will run!

That said, I think the grid is quite interesting. The channel will broadcast a series of locally made documentaries (which other Lebanese channels do not do a lot) and documentaries have proven to be (if targeting social and economic problems) to be able to capture a certain number of audiences.

The channel is clearly influenced by French TV programming, and is (in my humble opinion) trying to emulate M6's strategy in France. M6 went on air years ago to compete with TF1 (France's leading channel) and has managed with daring head to head programming to challenge TF1' supremacy (though TF1 remains number 1) TF1's equivalent in Lebanon is LBC...

...and LBC's most emblematic program is Kalam Al Nass (Thursday evenings) MTV has programed in front of it "Talk of Town" (i think that is the name) a French format, owned in the Middle East by Peri Cochin. This format (previously tried by New Tv) is a socio-political talk show with many guests. Its main feature is that is mixes humour, politics, social etc...I have seen the French version, and it was very successful. So I am eagerly waiting for this showdown.

PS: MTV's Thursday feature starts at 20h30, vs. 21h30 for Kalam Al Nass (LBC runs at 20h30 the also very successful comedy Bass Mat Watan) . MTV's program is long enough to compete with both.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rotana leaving Beirut

Rotana Music decided to leave its production facilities in Beirut-Lebanon and move to Amman-Jordan.

This big event (Beirut has been the historic base of Rotana) happens after important changes in Rotana, following the grouping of LBC Sat and Rotana's selling capacities (well actually a semi-merger, view my other posts on Rotana) Many of Rotana's most successful programs will actually be broadcasted on LBC (and probably produced in LBC's production facility in Adma-Lebanon) The rest (production wise) will move to Jordan.

The other reason is that Rotana's programs used to be produced at StudioVision's facilities. StudioVision's owners (Murr family) are reopening their own TV channel (MTV) and will also probably need a large part of the facilities.

To add spice to the issue, MTV is reportedly backed by Antoine Choueiri; Choueiri who lost the LBC media representation contract to...Rotana's RMS (Rotana Media Services) => Rotana had to leave StudioVision (MTV)'s facilities.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Radio wars

In one of the rare cases in the calm world of radio stations in the Middle East, Lebanon's Sawt el Ghad, "stole" one of Voice of Lebanon (VDL or Sawt Loubnan) 's stars: Monique Bassil Zaarour.

Monique Bassila Zaarour is a very popular nutrition expert. She has published books and manages nutrition clinics)

VDL promptly replaced her by Sawssan Wazen Jabri, a very successful nutrition/business women (she owns the Nutrition Diet Center in various Arab countries)

If we consider the huge number of phone calls received by both programs, no doubt dieting is a booming business in Lebanon!

Monday, February 23, 2009

SMS messaging on TV

Last week Egypt based Melody Hits decided to stop broadcasting the sms (text) messages sent by its viewers (on the bottom of the screen)

The channel announced that it was responding to demands by viewers. Interestingly, Melody relies (besides the cash creator music management business) on advertising revenues. The channel probably decided that sms revenues were too low; by scraping them out, it can now sell this "clean screen" to advertisers. Rotana (its main competitor) gained LBC Sat in its advertising portfolio, Melody (whose advertising is managed by Antoine Choueiri, who also used to represent LBC) needs to respond to its competitor's improved sale capacity. If competing with Rotana, means stopping on-screen sms, then be it!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New licences in Kuwait

The Kuwaiti ministry of information approved 10 new licenses for daily political newspapers. Kuwait now has 28 political dailies! Out of which only 18 are actually published (15 in Arabioc and 3 in English)

The main newspapers are:
Al Balad
Al Akhbar
Al Kuwait
Al Zaman
Al La3eb

Thursday, January 15, 2009

MTV to reopen

Now that the divorce between Antoine Choueiri group and LBC Group is done, and after resolving the last political problems, our website has learned that MTV will announce next week that it will resume broadcasting.

The probable date is the 23rd of January

Monday, January 12, 2009

Morocco's Amazight channel

Morocco announced that a new government owned channel will start broadcasting within the first nine months. The channel will be named the "National Amazight TV" .

The budget announced for the channel is relatively low, as Moroccoan communications minister announced that it will equal 4.5MEuros over 4 years!!!! That's probably enough to pay a dozen of employees, but shows that programming quality will be very week (a minimal yearly budget for a "respectable" channel stands at around $15M)

PS: Amazight is one of the languages of the "Berber" tribes mainly present in Morocco and Algeria.

BBC Persian

After BBC Persian radio (broadcasting since 1941), BBC announced last week that it was launching a new TV channel : BBC Persian with a budget of 15 Million pounds (source: Guardian)
the channel will have 140 employees.

This BBC Persian TV comes after BBC's arabic experience, where a TV channel was successfully launched in parallel to the radio service.