A look at some of the most influential figures working in Arab TV, both in front of and behind the camera
As the glam face of Dubai TV’s celeb and entertainment show “Studio 24,” and boasting a master’s degree in international affairs, Makki could very well become the Arab world’s Katie Couric. Blessed with model good looks, a strong interest in world politics and breezy on-air charisma, she has seen ratings for her show rise across the region ever since she jumped from Future TV to join increasingly popular satcaster Dubai TV.
The Al-Jazeera Networks director general is arguably the most powerful man in Arab news. His new role finds him overseeing the soon-to-be-launched English-language service, Al-Jazeera Intl., as well as Al-Jazeera’s sports, kids and documentary channels. Khanfar’s meteoric rise has seen him move from reporter — he headed Al-Jazeera’s Kabul bureau during the U.S.-led war against the Taliban — to top exec in five years.
Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal
The closest the Arab world has to a Rupert Murdoch or Sumner Redstone, Saudi Prince bin Talal towers over Arab media. With a multibillion-dollar portfolio, it is through his titan conglomerate, Rotana, that he exerts most influence. With six free-to-air satcasters, the region’s most powerful music label and a film production arm, Rotana has become synonymous with Arab TV entertainment. Bin Talal — who also owns sizable shares in Murdoch’s News Corp. — launched his own religious satcaster, Al-Resalah (The Message), in December 2005 to help spread a moderate view of Islam across the Arab and Muslim worlds.
The just ankled Showtime Arabia CEO and prexy achieved the near-impossible task of turning the paybox into a profitable venture despite being in a region where rival pay platforms ART and Orbit are bankrolled by near-limitless Saudi petro-dollars and the number of free-to-air satcasters is near the 300 mark. Despite the intense local competition, Einstein succeeded with his “see it all, see it first” motto and by constantly striving to deliver technological innovation to pan-Arab TV. Showtime Arabia was the first platform to offer DVR service, for example, and the paybox is now set to expand into its own productions for the first time.
Moussawi is the political editor for Al-Manar, militant group Hezbollah’s TV news channel. And as the war between Israel and the militant group raged this summer and much of Hezbollah’s leadership went into hiding, Moussawi became the public face of the controversial org. The media-friendly spokesman appeared to the point of ubiquity on Western and pan-Arab newsies, always keeping his cool despite the rising death toll and devastation.
The MBC Al-Arabiya journo made a name for herself with her fearless reporting on Isreal’s recent Hezbollah offensive. As the only female reporter to be stationed in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre — the scene of some of the heaviest fighting — Maktabi dared to go where many others feared to tread and helped Al-Arabiya beat rival newscaster Al-Jazeera in the ratings war for Arab auds. Her efforts have been rewarded by execs at the Dubai-based channel. She is now set to anchor the coveted late news roundup slot, “The Last Hour.”
Hussein Ali Lootah
The Dubai Media Inc. CEO has overseen the quick launch of Dubai’s four new TV channels, eschewing the profligate spending of some of the region’s satcasters in favor of sensible business planning. Since its June 2004 relaunch, showpiece satcaster Dubai TV has emerged as a genuine rival to the likes of established titans MBC and LBCi, while English-language One TV has inked strategic partnerships with Warner Bros. and Disney. Terrestrial channel Sama Dubai also has scored local success thanks to a sked dedicated to Emirati and Gulf programming.
The 38-year-old “tele-Islamist” is rapidly picking up a devoted following across the Mideast with his moderate brand of preaching. Moving away from the more firebrand rhetoric espoused by some older preachers, Khaled has increasingly aimed himself toward the burgeoning Arab youth market. His well-publicized spat with Al-Jazeera’s Youssef Al-Qaradawi earlier this year over the Danish cartoon controversy helped cement Khaled’s progressive persona. A primetime slot on Islamic satcaster Al-Resalah during Ramadan will likely raise his profile even further.
The Saudi TV presenter achieved iconic status in the Arab world and beyond — she even appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — when she shattered Saudi Arabia’s wall of silence regarding domestic abuse by publishing photos of her horrific injuries at the hands of her husband. She’s now set to break ground again as the first-ever Saudi presenter on Lebanese TV. She’s in advanced negotiations with Lebanese satcaster Future TV to host her own show.
The media-shy Choueiri’s firm, the Choueiri Group, accounts for an estimated 70% of the TV ad market in the Mideast. With clients ranging from LBCi to Dubai TV, Choueiri has revolutionized the TV ad business across the region. In December, his group’s headquarters will relocate from Beirut to Dubai, another sign of the emirate’s growing position as a regional media hub.