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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.