Al Jazeera turned into a powerhouse name that nearly everyone knows today; some also know Al Arabiya—But how about the MBC, a.k.a. The Middle East Broadcasting Center, does it ring a bell?
No, it is not yet another Arabic-language Satellite channel that just got off the ground…
In fact, just last year, the MBC group celebrated its 20th anniversary.
♦ Who owns MBC today?
Today, MBC is equally shared between Abdulaziz bin Fahd, the favorite son of the late Saudi King Fahd, and his maternal uncle.
♦ How was MBC founded?
One of the main driving forces behind the creation of MBC in the early 1990s is the well-known Saudi businessman صـــالح كـــــامل (Salah Kamel), owner of one of the largest banks operating in the Arab world today, the Islamic Bank Dalla Baraka, and widely recognized as “the pioneer of Islamic Banking.”
Salah Kamel is also the owner of ART, the former “Arab media empire” of which nothing but the religious TV channel إقـــــــرأ (meaning “Read” in Arabic) remains, after the TV network group divested from its sports channels to Al Jazeera (which would become Al Jazeera Sports, as we saw in a previous post) and its music channels to the Saudi group Rotana, co-property of Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, considered today’s richest man in the Arab world. The other co-owner of Rotana, which also broadcasts the religious channel Al-Resalah, is none other than media mogul Rupert Murdoch, of Fox News Channel fame, shareholder of the newly-launched channel Sky News Arabic.
Of course, the supreme irony of “business as usual”, according to which Rupert Murdoch, Australian-born owner of right-wing media outlets in the US and Great Britain, all of a sudden becomes through the Rotana group a shareholder of a Muslim Brotherhood channel in the Middle East does not seem to have picked the interest of the West’s mass media—yet!
♦ MBC’s Al Arabiya vs. Qatar’s Al Jazeera
Coming under fierce competition from other new emerging channels, and after focusing too long on belly dance shows and Arabic-dubbed Latino daytime soap-operas of the “Days of our Lives” variety, the MBC group felt compelled to launch its own news-only network, قنــــــــــاة العربيــــــــــــة (Al Arabiya channel) in 2003, shortly before the US-led invasion of Iraq.
A large group of regional investors headed by the late Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, generously contributed to the launching of Al Arabiya.
The chief mission of Al Arabiya was to compete with its Qatari rival, الجــــزيــــــرة (Al Jazeera), which did not hesitate to lambaste the ruling dynasties of the region at every conceivable opportunity.
As pointed out by ArabianBusiness.com: “MBC was late to develop قنـــــاة إخبــــــاريـــــة على مدار السَّــــــاعـــة (a 24-hour news channel), so the Qataris beat it to the punch and launched the hard-hitting and sometimes controversial market leader, Al Jazeera.”
Today, rather than focusing on documentaries or البرامــــــــج التَّربــــــــويـــــة والثَّقــــــــافيــــــة (educational and cultural programs), the MBC-owned networks offer “pure entertainment” content such as ربَّــــــــــات بيــــــــوت يــــائســـــــات (Arabic title of ”Desperate Housewives“), and TV shows like “Arabs Got Talent.” A fact which prompted some of its harsher critics to give those networks (MBC1, MBC2, MBC3, MBC4, MBC+Drama, etc.) the unflattering nickname of “MBC.IL Channels” (read “Imbecile Channels.”)
On Arabic-language news channels, read also this week’s: