BBC World Launches Arabic Network

BBC World will relaunch their Arabic-language satelite television channel in March 2007. The service is intended top compete with Al Jazerra, the popular Arab TV channel accused of bias by Washington and Downing Street.

In order to fund this the BBC will close down 10 local language radio services, mostly in Eastern Europe. This is seen as a reflection of post Cold War priorities.

"The Middle East's media landscape has changed profoundly following the spread of satellite television," said World Service Director Nigel Chapman. "Without a BBC news presence in Arabic on television, we run the risk of always being second to television, despite the quality of our radio and new media offers."

Chapman said that in many of the affected countries, newly liberal democracies had resulted in an explosion in local news media outlets, resulting in less need for the World Service. Broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovene and Thai will stop by the end of March 2006.

However, Chapman denied it would serve the political or diplomatic aims of the British government.

"There's no political motive in this," he said. "Our job is to be a broadcaster."


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