Arabic alternative to CNN

CAIRO — Arab News Network (ANN) isn’t about to knock the popular and widely viewed CNN off the Mideast airwaves, but it does promise to offer regional viewers an Arabic-lingo alternative to the U.S. broadcaster.

ANN has been announced for launch this fall. It’s a free-to-air satcaster and plans CNN-style around-the-clock news programming in Arabic to be supported mainly by ad revenue. The Arab-sponsored station currently is broadcasting promotional announcements via Eutelsat.

When operational, it will be the first such station serving the Mideast, and has announced that its sat uplink will carry its signal from Morocco to the Persian Gulf.

Plans are to broadcast from London with regional news bureaus throughout the Arab world. Organizers stated they recently have been granted a broadcast license by Britain’s independent Television Commission (ITC).

Station claims that it will be financed entirely by private capital and will be independent of any Arab government.

Most Arabic satcasters do have direct or indirect links to government, and as such tend to be regarded with some suspicion by many viewers — especially where it comes to news broadcasting, and imposed censorship or self-censorship tends to be the rule rather than the exception.

ANN’s chairman is Sawmar el Assad, who happens to be the nephew of Syrian President Hafes el Assad.

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