Web to breathe fresh air into Iraq

Dispatch

CAIRO — A billionaire Egyptian businessman, whose company heads a consortium operating a mobile phone service in Iraq, and Egyptian news provider Video CairoSat plan to start a private TV station in Iraq.

The station, to be called Hawa (Arabic for “air”), will bow in early June and carry news and entertainment. It’s expected to employee 50 people in Egypt and Iraq.

Naguib Sawiris, whose Orascom Telecom company heads the consortium that was awarded the license to operate Iraq’s Iraqna mobile phone network, will fund 70% of the $25 million startup costs. Video CairoSat will fund 30% of the project, the company says.

Hawa will compete with U.S.-funded satellite TV channel Al-Hurra (Free One), which made its Iraqi debut in February.

The Egyptian-owned channel will operate terrestrially for six months before being transmitted via satellite to gain a wider Middle Eastern audience. Advertising will be the main revenue source, but the consortium doesn’t expect to make a profit in the first five years.

Mohamed Gohar, owner of Video CairoSat, says the consortium spent four months convincing Iraq’s U.S.-backed Coalition Provisional Authority to grant a license.

“They (the Americans) wanted to be sure of our professionalism, seriousness and our commitment to impartiality and objectivity,” he says. “We are neither with or against anyone. Our main objective is to entertain Iraqis and deliver information objectively.”

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