A question to Director of the BBC World Service, Nigel Chapman

On the celebration of the BBC 75th anniversary, I had the chance to put this question to Director of the BBC World Service, Nigel Chapman about the launch an Arabic TV channel:

“The BBC is going to launch an Arabic TV channel
. How distinct is this channel going to be vis-à-vis the existing Middle Eastern Arabic channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya?”

Nigel Chapman: What we want to make sure is that the BBC brings a very high quality international news service on television in Arabic to the Middle East. The BBC has a genuinely international perspective on the news and the big events in the world. It’s not rooted in the region itself like some of the channels you mention. I expect a wide agenda and also the ability to reveal news stories especially in the Middle East itself, but also right across the world.

This what I think about this launch.

The plan to launch an Arabic service new satellite TV station in the Middle East is a good step by the BBC to address an audience whose region is extensively daily in the news. Although the launch seems a bit late, but it’s better late than never. The region is now swarming with different news “homemade” Arabic channels, but each is with a political agenda. Although they appear to be neutral or reflecting both sides, they remain tied to the political directions of the countries that sponsor them. Al Jazeera is known for broadcasting programmes like “Opposite Directions” in which debates get hot to the point of uncivilised shouting and interruption, but it never dared broadcast a programme about Qatar showing the problems facing the country. Al Arabiya can never broadcast programmes showing the social or political problems in Saudi Arabia. Such channels are free to broadcast programmes critical of other countries, except the countries that sponsor them.

The BBC will be an occasion for those seeking facts without being bombarded with set political views that reflect only the official lines to watch the news and to make their mind about it. Those who visit BBC Arabic website, listen to Arabic service will quickly fit in BBC Arabic television service. Those used to biased news will find the BBC biased because it isn’t leaning to the side they are used to adhering to.

BBC will surely represent a serious rival to the established Arabic news channels if it starts to broadcast 24/7 and if the audience learns that the new approach to the news isn’t to be dictated how to view events, but to have views on them. BBC English service has succeeded in making its users, website visitors, viewers and listeners become interactive. The BBC leaves them to comment and as it has no political agenda amounting to propaganda, contrary to the other Arabic channels who invite “experts” to tell the viewers what is right and wrong.

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