There are quite literally hundreds of Arabic-language TV channels out there, broadcasting from within the Arab world and beyond. But only two names usually sound familiar to most ears: Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.
There’s no doubt that Al Jazeera is the most famous and still most successful Arabic-language channel out there.
Its name “الجزيـــــــرة” means “island” in Arabic, referring to شبه الجزيـــــــرة العربيـــــــة (the Arabic Peninsula.) Its current chairman is a relative of the Qatari Emir.
In addition to the main news channel, Al Jazeera also broadcasts الجزيرة الوثائقية (Al Jazeera Documentary) and the very popular الجزيرة الرياضية (Al Jazeera Sports Channel) ran by the Qatari businessman who now owns the prestigious French Football team Paris Saint-Germain.
Since not too long ago, it provides an English, Urdu, and Serbian-Croatian versions of its news content.
Second in prominence after Al Jazeera is Al Arabiya. It was launched only a few weeks before the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The decision came mainly as a Saudi response to Al Jazeera’s often irreverential coverage of the ruling royal families of the region. And large funds from the late PM of Lebanon Rafiq Al-Hariri were committed to its launching.
It is based today in Dubai’s tax-free city, Dubai Media City, and is directed by the former editor-in-chief of “الشرق الأوســــط” (“The Middle East”) newspaper, Abdelrahman Al-Rached, for a while closely linked with another Saudi businessman, Othman al Oumeir (owner of Maroc Soir, a publishing group very close to the royal family of Morocco, as well as the self-declared “most liberal of Arab online publications”, the website Elaph.)
To understand the news perspective of Al Arabiya, and why it is palpably different from that of Al Jazeera for example, you have to understand that it is part of the MBC group, which celebrated last year its 20th anniversary.
Today, MBC is equally shared between Abdulaziz bin Fahd, the favorite son of the late Saudi King Fahd, and his maternal uncle.
The ties between media, politics, and other sectors of the economy in both Saudi Arabia and Lebanon are numerous: To illustrate this point, consider for instance that the other major business concern for the Saudi Abdulaziz is Saudi Oger, one of the largest construction companies in the Arab region. Saudi Oger is actually owned by none other than the family of the aforementioned Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri.