SAUDI-BASED Rotana Group will use Bahrain as its base to launch its latest Arabic news channel Al Arab by early next year, that will create job opportunities for Bahrainis and improve ties between Manama and Riyadh.
The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) last night signed several deals in this regard with Rotana Group during a ceremony held at the Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea and Spa.
IAA President Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa signed the deal with Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Rotana Group. A Saudi delegation and senior Bahrain government officials attended.
"We have 13 channels including groups such as MBC and Fox, and now with Al Arab we will be broadcasting to a global audience," said Prince Alwaleed.
"We aim to start broadcasting by the beginning of 2013."
Shaikh Fawaz in his speech praised relations between the two countries and thanked Prince Alwaleed for choosing Bahrain as the headquarters to launch the news channel.
"This will serve as a catalyst to the economy and human resources development. Rotana Group is well-known in the Middle East and such investments will help Bahrain," he said.
Rotana Group is a leading name in the media and entertainment sector in the region and Prince Alwaleed said there were several destinations to choose from to operate the 24-hour news channel.
"Bahrain was chosen from an economic point of view and it would further cement historic relations between the two countries," he said.
As part of the deal, senior level management will be based at the Bahrain headquarters, while the Group will continue to operate its studios located in Beirut, Cairo and Dubai.
The Saudi billionaire said the ambitious project is "independent" and being operated in co-operation with Bloomberg to project a fair and balanced view on political, social and economic issues in Saudi Arabia and the region.
Jamal Khashoggi, a veteran Saudi Arabian journalist, will be its manager and according to reports about 300 people are expected to be recruited.
Newly-appointed Minister of State for Information Affairs Samira Rajab said the deal would pave way for the six-member GCC Union and provide correct information to local and international audience.
"This is a new phase which I feel is a key step towards the GCC Union. It will show to the world that we practise freedom of speech and Press."
"It will also boost the media sector in Bahrain."
Ms Rajab said: "Media has played negative and positive roles and this is the issue we have faced along with other countries. This independent channel is giving a new voice to the Gulf and Arab countries."