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Arabic TV

Richard Sambrook | 16:00 UK time, Monday, 10 March 2008

BBC World Service launches a new channel tomorrow morning - BBC Arabic will be adding television to the mix. Initially it will broadcast 12 hours a day, moving to 24 hours later in the year.

World Service logoTogether with our radio and internet services in Arabic, it will form part of the first multimedia offer to the Arab world with programming scheduled across all three media - from the web, to radio, to TV.

Arabic was the first language beyond English the World Service launched 70 years ago. It was also the first language to have its own website. That track record means the BBC is well known and well respected in the region. Since then, of course, the Arab media market has exploded with many hundreds of channels now available. So why should the BBC offer a TV service and what will it be like?

The Arab world is one of the most important regions of the world. Events there affect all of us in some way, from terrorism and war, to oil prices and trade. It is natural therefore that the World Service should seek to reach as many people as possible with its broadcasts - and today that means being on TV which is now the most used medium for news and information.

BBC Arabic channelWe won't, as some have suggested, be seeking to get more viewers than broadcasters like al-Jazeera or Al Arabiya. As an international broadcaster that is unlikely. However we believe we can be distinctive for Arab audiences offering an international, not just Arab, perspective on events and an objective approach to issues. It will have the same standards and values as any other BBC service, reporting on the rest of the world as well as the region. In surveys in the region, 85% of those asked said they would watch the BBC channel. We hope some 35 million people will be using the service in 5 years time.

Like the rest of the World Service, it is being funded by Grant-in-Aid from the Foreign Office - not the UK licence fee - which has led some of our competitors to suggest the channel will simply be Western propaganda. It won't. As with all World Service programmes, it will be editorially independent - something clearly written into our agreements with the Foreign Office - and will represent the same standards which have made the BBC one of the most trusted broadcasters in the world.

So the BBC Arabic newsroom is ready, the teams are recruited and trained, the pilots are over and from 10:00 (GMT) we go live. Wish us luck.

Here's how to watch:

BBC Arabic television will be free-to-air across North Africa and the Arab world on satellite TV via Nilesat and Hotbird, and also visible in the UK on Hotbird 8 (Transponder 50). It will also be streamed on

On Tuesday, when the new channel goes live, we'll post details here about how to watch online.

BBC Arabic buttonUpdate, Tuesday 11 March: To watch BBC Arabic's live stream online, go to and click on the red button (as pictured here).


  • 1.
  • At 08:50 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Paul Armstrong wrote:

erm,grant-in-aid or not it is my tax and licence fee money that is contributing. So, the benefit to me is what ?

  • 2.
  • At 09:00 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Ralph Phillips wrote:

You must now think that having spit out your completely anti-Israel bias in English, you can go into Arabic and claim a larger audience for your totally one sided reporting.
(I bet you won't dare print this comment)

"The Arab world is one of the most important regions of the world. Events there affect all of us in some way, from terrorism and war, to oil prices and trade."

I agree that the Arab world is tremendously important, but is it a little harsh to suggest that its main strength is terrorism and/or war? Although the BBC's claimed stance is objective, perhaps it should instead be trying to show the Arab world more sympathetically to counteract the acres of negative coverage?

  • 4.
  • At 11:27 PM on 10 Mar 2008,
  • Where had England gone? wrote:

So the UK licence fee is not being used to fund this new branch of the BBC serving the arab world. Who are you trying to kid? the UK taxpayer is still paying for a channel thats going to be watched by 35 million arabs. Has anybody thought about asking the arab world to pay for it? Has this country gone mad?? Is anybody ever going to stand up and put the interests of the British people first and right what is wrong in our country before we start dishing out free tv to 35 million other people.

  • 5.
  • At 03:14 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Salam wrote:

Just waste of time and money, the Arabic public no longer trust BBC and they do not listen to it and they say the BBC is working against the Arabic people, so my advice is to stop this service

  • 6.
  • At 07:01 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Alex Brodie wrote:

I don't see the difference between funding this out of the compulsory national tax or funding it out of the compulsory licence fee, which is just another tax by the back door. You should look at the name on the tin. Last time I looked it said BRITISH broadcasting corporation, not ARABIC. You lot have got your priorities all wrong and funding it out of government tax money doesn't make it all okay, I'm afraid.

  • 7.
  • At 07:06 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • jaffar saeed wrote:

please,we want the live streaming before 0955GMT


  • 8.
  • At 08:29 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • P. Oake wrote:

Why is the BBC wasting UK Licence payers hard earned money providing free TV to people who have not or ever will pay them a penny. Under the Freedom of Information Act I would ask that the BBC reveal how many Arabic TV Licence payers there are and why the BBC is not providing free TV to those who pay for the drivel it foists on the tax payers of this country?

  • 9.
  • At 09:29 AM on 11 Mar 2008,

NO WONDER OUR LICENCE FEE IS SO HIGH, STOP GIVING FREE TV AND RADIO TO THE REST OF THE WORLD AT OUR is well past time the bbc were made to be self funding, not rely on ripping off the public. if you can not support yourselves by your own funding, then be like other companies, face the end of the line.

  • 10.
  • At 09:56 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Carina Kwan wrote:

This is fantastic....People are moaning about it on both sides, just like a mixed marrage, but i see something wonderful to come out of this.....Nothing wrong in builing a bridge, so people ....chill!

  • 11.
  • At 10:03 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Nuha wrote:

It is absurd, having already Al-Jazeera to provide international news for the BBC to spend time, money and energy in another Arab channel.

  • 12.
  • At 10:08 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • James wrote:

If the Arab world want to pay for a TV station then let them, why should I pay for it?
Either its to inform and entertain the Arab population, in which case why should I pay, or its to influence them to help the British interests, in which case the BBC is not impartial.

  • 13.
  • At 10:10 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Gary Spence wrote:

I can't speak Arabic, but will this channel be on the Sky platform anytime soon just as the BBC World Service Radio is funded by FCO?

  • 14.
  • At 11:57 AM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Tim Rice wrote:

to all who said that why we british people are paying for a tv for Arab World, I would like to tell them that our country, 40 years ago only, occupied the whole Arab World, and that our country has a miliatry precence in Iraq and military and trade ties with every nation in the gulf. We were there before the americans and we are there now and we will be there tomorrow, so we must invest in our interests. This new channel is not for the Arab interests, it is for our own interests in the region, and we have to keep these interests at any cost.
By the way the cost is 18 million pounds only which is cheaper than our troops daily costs in Iraq.

  • 15.
  • At 12:59 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • James wrote:

What small-minded opinions. No one's ever tried to say that the BBC World Service isn't funded by the taxpayer - it plainly is, and always has been, funded by the FCO! BBC Arabic is an entity of this.

To get the correct, fair and unbiased viewpoint to as many people in the Arab world as possible, is £25m that big a deal?

Misinformation costs a damn sight more when people start blowing themselves up because of it.

It looks the part, from the first moments of the launch onwards. Good luck to the channel and all involved.

  • 16.
  • At 01:31 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Jack wrote:

It is essential to offer an alternative voice to those countries who have for so long only listened to state-controlled media - especially in such an important area.

However, I fear that those who really need to watch will be prevented from doing so by their governments. For example, will this not simply be banned in Iran?

Anyhow, I wish the project good luck on its important mission.

Congratulations on an excellent move. The point that the begrudgers above so willfully miss is, of course, that the BBC has always won friends for us all over the world as it broadcast solid, reliable and objective news to a world that often doesn't have access to that luxury.

Others have come after it with a glossier and even more accessible product that has turned out to be ultimately skewed and politically motivated. The BBC has always been above this.

The result has been a world in which British people have often found themselves more welcome because of the positive influence of the BBC: meeting people who learn English from the World Service, who appreciate the service and the society that supports and provides it. People who are Anglophile by default because of these broadcasts. So it's often good for travellers and good for trade. And I, as someone who has been doing business with the Arab World for 20 years, would say that yes, it's well worth the investment.

Good luck with the new channel!

  • 18.
  • At 02:24 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Dr Kaihsu Tai wrote:

It would be constructive for social cohesion in the United Kingdom if BBC Arabic is available on Freeview here as well as in the Middle East and North Africa.

Thank you for all your comments. In response to some of them, I'd just like to re-iterate that the new BBC Arabic channel is not funded by the licence fee.

  • 20.
  • At 05:00 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Philip wrote:

I'm interested that when will BBC offer a TV service for chinese views?


  • 21.
  • At 05:04 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Simon wrote:

The usual hysterical comments on this forum, as expected.

As rightly pointed out, BBC World, and therefore this channel is NOT FUNDED FROM THE LICENSE FEE and isn't the BBC's motto...

Nations Shall Speak Peace Unto Nations? Or at least was when it was founded

  • 22.
  • At 07:03 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Stewart wrote:

Why would the Arab world trust the word of the BBC? As a Scottish born lifetime resident of the UK I know that every news report,programme,sitcom,sports programme etc etc produced by the BBC is biased by the very fact that the people producing the thing are mainly from white middle class liberal/conservative backgrounds and as such are, by nature alienated from the mainstream British average mentality never mind the Arabic mindset. I would imagine that what comes out of the Al Jazeera channel is just as unconciously biased.

  • 23.
  • At 10:28 PM on 11 Mar 2008,
  • Dean Tenni wrote:

A breath of fresh air? Maybe another perspective on Middle Eastern affairs without the gore,the blood and the tears. A sanitized version of facts? Raise the banner of truth instead and beware the lobbies.

  • 24.
  • At 11:54 AM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Johnny Cheung wrote:

Actually I don't think that BBC Arabic will ever attract the same large auddience of those genuinely Arab channels. Britain is hardly a pioneer, after all, it is joining a club of countries with the same grand and sadly deluded intentions like the USA ("al-Hurra"), France ("France 24 - Arabic") and Russia ("Rusiya al-Yaum"). It would be quite a coup for BBC Arabic if it can attract viewers from these so-called "international broadcasters" in the first place!

  • 25.
  • At 12:58 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • wowzimmer wrote:

Not only do I think that the BBC Arabic news channel is a good idea. Mainly for the reasons already described by Richard Sambrook. But I have watched some clips of the channel online and have to say how impressed I am of the coverage, presentation and production of the channel. Clearly a lot of money has been spent on making the channel very slick - Although this may be so that it appeals more to Arab/Middle Eastern audiences it is a shame that the same amount of money cannot be spent on making the BBC's flagship News 24 as very professional and dare I say it; glossy. Perhaps the editors of News 24 and BBC World will look at BBC Arabic and up their game in turn. I sincerly hope so!

  • 26.
  • At 01:27 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Dafydd Hughes wrote:

It is a pitty that the Arabic service is 100 times better that the BBC Welsh service. 1/2 hour TV news per day and a website with around 4 new wales stories every day. My message to the BBC, do a better job at home first before going overseas!

  • 27.
  • At 02:02 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • Richard Murray wrote:

Congratulations on the re launch, lets give it a chance

  • 28.
  • At 05:10 PM on 12 Mar 2008,
  • David wrote:

Most people prefer TV in their own language. I watch English language international news on TV from France, Germany, UK, China, Russia, USA etc. - all without a fee being levied. It gives a different and interesting perspective on the news.
So what is the difference between that and the BBC broadcasting in Arabic for the consumption of Arabic speakers?

  • 29.
  • At 12:07 AM on 13 Mar 2008,
  • Half Iranian wrote:

I watched bbc arabic yesterday and was keen to see the launch. I live in a Palestinian camp here in Syria and was also interested to see popular reaction to the channel.

Most people I speak to watch al Jazeera and hadn't yet heard of the BBC launch. I'd be surprised if they switch to the BBC, but if these threats by Arab states to start cracking down on media coverage come true, this might turn people towards the bbc.

I was interested to see the news selection. Much more international news than the Arab channels, but who's to say that's what they want to watch. BBC Arabic radio does have quite a following (although reception here is terrible) because there aren't decent radio outlets. TV is another thing altogether.

Good luck, but I fear it's going to be a very uphill struggle. People want to watch Arab news, not programs about 'Intelligence tests' in Oxford (that you had on day 1)...

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