Saudi prince’s pan-Arab TV news channel shut down
RIYADH - A Saudi billionaire's pan-Arab TV news channel was declared "dead" on Tuesday, ending a two-year search for a new home after it was shut down by the Bahraini authorities.
Bahrain pulled the plug on the Alarab News Channel in February 2015 after it aired an interview with a Shiite opponent of the Gulf kingdom's Sunni rulers on its first day of broadcasting.
The pro-government Bahraini daily Akhbar al-Khaleej reported at the time that programming had been interrupted after less than 24 hours because the channel had not adhered "to the norms prevalent in Gulf countries".
Since then the channel had looked for a new home elsewhere in the Middle East, but without success.
"It is dead," a high-level source familiar with its operations said on Tuesday.
The station was owned by outspoken Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a member of the Saudi ruling family.
He is also chairman of Riyadh-based Kingdom Holding Co which has investments around the world.
A memo to staff said that February 6 was the last day of work for Alarab's employees.
It said the past two years had been "a trying time with best efforts exerted" to re-launch the operation.
"The time has come now for a final decision to be made regarding the future of the channel," the memo said.
"Therefore and regretfully, the management has decided to cease its operation with an immediate effect."
More than 100 employees had remained on the payroll, the high-level source said, adding that he did not know how much money the television venture had cost.
He said he was "not at liberty" to say what led to the final shutdown decision.
Alarab had vowed to practise "objective" journalism in a politically charged Middle East region where leading regional broadcasters have been accused of bias.
It had an initial staff of about 280 and planned to have correspondents in 30 countries.
Bahrain is a close ally of Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, which has a Shiite minority in its east.
Both Shiite communities have long complained of marginalisation, and have experienced sporadic unrest since 2011.
Alwaleed's Kingdom Holding has shares in the Euro Disney theme park, Apple, News Corporation and US banking giant Citigroup, among other firms.
His office did not respond to requests for comment.
In November Alwaleed, who holds no political posts, called for an "urgent" end to his country's ban on women driving.