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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Niche TV channels target Arab viewers
By Peter Feuilherade
BBC Monitoring

Recent months have seen a plethora of Arabic-language television channels appearing free-to-air on satellite.

Woman interviewed by al-Sumariyah TV
Al-Sumariyah TV is broadcast from the Lebanese capital

Most of the emerging broadcasters are privately-owned - often by local business interests - and include niche channels focusing on tourism, real estate and culture.

During the last three months, more than half a dozen satellite TV services targeting viewers in Iraq have been launched.

This week alone saw two new launches. The first was Zagros TV, operated by the Kurdistan Democratic Party-led regional government in northern Iraq.

The second newcomer, al-Sumariyah, was being launched on Friday to mark the start of Ramadan.

It is a free-to-air TV service which will broadcast from Beirut initially, for security reasons.

Its chairman is Lebanese Jean-Claude Boulos, one of the founders of the state channel Tele-Liban, the Arab world's first TV station that was launched in 1958.

Hannibal TV logo
Tunisia's first private channel, Hannibal TV, shows no news

May Kahhaleh, al-Sumariyah's head of news, said her channel was an independent broadcaster licensed by the Iraqi government, and would "aim to show the world the true face of Iraq, and not only images of violence".

She said its broadcasts would start with entertainment programmes and serials appropriate to Ramadan, and news bulletins would follow after the Muslim holy fasting month ends in mid-November. On Friday, the channel was showing current affairs documentaries.

Viewers in Iraq are eager for more entertainment and comedy programmes, especially those with a local flavour.

This is contrary to the prevalent trend in the rest of the Middle East, where audiences seem to favour the 24-hour news channels such as al-Jazeera, al-Arabiya, Abu Dhabi TV and Lebanon's LBC.

Niche channels

Other new Arabic-language channels recently observed by BBC Monitoring broadcasting programming or test transmissions on the Nilesat satellite include:

Al-Ra'i TV - Kuwait's first private channel, operated by the Boodai Corporation, and offering political, social and religious programming.

Al-Mishkat - a Kuwaiti venture which describes itself as the first Arab channel to focus on real estate, history and tourism, reflecting Kuwait and the Gulf.

Nourmina TV - a channel offering tourism and cultural programmes promoting Jordan.

Al-Farah - a general entertainment station based in Jordan, which describes itself as "the Arab family channel".

Al-Anwar - a channel from Lebanon focusing on religious, educational and cultural programming.

Al-Fajr (The Dawn) - a religious and educational channel from Saudi Arabia whose stated goal is to spread the message of the Holy Koran.

Hannibal TV - the first private channel in Tunisia, owned by businessman Larbi Nasra, which will offer general entertainment, initially with no news content.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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