BBC Arabic channel sets launch

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The BBC’s new Arabic language newscaster will launch March 11.The web will initially air for 12 hours a day with a step-up to a 24 hour, round the clock service expected to kick in sometime in the next six months.

In October last year, the British government’s chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling announced the news channel would receive an extra $12 million a year to make the jump to 24 hour broadcasting, up from the $38 million a year the 12 hour service had previously been allocated. All of the coin will come from the coffers of the government’s foreign and commonwealth office and not U.K. taxpayers’ license fees.

The BBC Arabic TV service enters an already congested marketplace with more than 250 free-to-air Arab satcasters. Current market leaders Al-Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, and MBC’s Al-Arabiya, Saudi-owned but based out of Dubai, already boast large and loyal followings among Arab auds.

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