Text of report in English by Saudi newspaper Saudi Gazette website on 5 February
[Unattributed report from Riyadh: "New TV Channel to Cover Shoura Discussions Live"]
Saudi TV will soon have a fifth channel, Iyad Amin Madani, Minister of Culture and Information revealed. The channel will have "serious" programming such as live transmissions of Shoura Council sessions and municipal councils' meetings, and documentaries.
Madani revealed the plan on Sunday [3 February] during a closed-door discussion in the Shoura Council.
Madani was invited by the Shoura Council to discuss matters related to Information and Culture. Discussions in the Shoura, which is primarily an Islamic platform for scholars and experts to exchange views on matters of public interest, allow for multiplicity of opinion, greater openness and objectivity in debate, all aimed at the general welfare of the country and the citizen.
Madani, in explaining his ministry's firm stand against satellite channels that promote tribalism and regionalism, said, "We will n! ever allow it because the media is the forefront of confronting whatever threatens the county's national unity."
He said it is the Saudi media's duty to even confront any Arab channel that promotes matters like regionalism or encourages nepotism.
About the ministry's media policy guidelines, these are based on Islam, respect for the principles of the religion, on the leadership's political goals and on measuring up to the aspirations of the different segments of Saudi society without favouring one segment over another.
The discussion also covered the Ministry of Culture and Information's 2006-2007 report that said the Saudi media was weak, unable to counter foreign media attacks and also ineffective in generating a sense of belonging and patriotism so as to fight "deviant" thought, a term used to describe terrorist ideology.
While releasing the report, he had called for urgent financial support, including allocations to be spent by the minister on ma! tters that are not subject to normal procedures.
Speaking about press organizations, Madani ruled out any immediate move to permit Saudi press organizations to go public and convert into joint stock companies.
The minister said that that the ministry must maintain its relationship with the press organizations at this "transitional phase" of the Kingdom's development process and that the matter may be considered at a later stage.
Shoura Chairman Dr Saleh Bin Abdullah Humaid said that as press organizations in the Kingdom generate about SR3 billion in revenues, there is ample scope for establishing more publishing houses with a view to employing nationals and helping ease the unemployment problem in the Kingdom.
Madani's openness and transparency in his three-hour discussion on Sunday drew the praise of the Shoura members.
Madani thanked the Shoura for inviting him and hoped that the Council would keep up the momentum with frequent discussions with government officials that go beyond the pale of debating merely repo! rts.
Source: Saudi Gazette website, Jedda, in English 5 Feb 08