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Saudi writer lauds BBC plans to launch Arabic TV channel

BBC Monitoring

Text of report by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat website on 9 January

[Article by Ziyad Bin Abdallah Al-Daris: "This is London... Others are There!" - ellipses as published]

This is London ... Others are There!

Seventy years ago, the term "This is London" was heard from the Arabic service of the BBC across the Arab airwaves for the first time

Some 40 years ago, my relationship with London radio started. It was a relationship of hatred, jealousy, and discontent. Nothing could stop a child of my age from talking about or, more particularly, asking about, Big Ben's tick.

My oldest uncle was ready to give up everything to tease the children around him, his sons or nephews, until the hands of the clock approached the hour, announcing the news ... from London. Then the radio became the most important thing.

Clocks are set according to London radio, and policies are set according to London radio as well!

Warm relations among my uncle, my father, and London radio, may Allah bless them all, grew, par! ticularly when the war of 1967 started. The war was full of events, surprises, victories, and defeats, and the spices Sawt Al-Arab radio added to the cooking. It all encouraged my father and uncle to be attached to the radio, and that made us hate the radio. We were at a childish age, one that could not help us to taste the main dish in the news: How could one taste the spices and the dialogue in which they were mixed?

At the beginning of its broadcasting, London radio broadcast for one hour only, then, after the 1973 war, it increased its broadcast hours to nine hours. By the beginning of first Gulf war in 1990, broadcast hours increased to 18 hours. With the increase of our wars and battles, we were able, thank God, to convince BBC in English that Arabs deserve round-the-clock broadcasting. London radio broadcasts started to run all day long by the beginning of second Gulf war in 2003. In expectation of the looming third Gulf war, we might be able to persuade BBC to! broadcast 25 hours a day.

We got old and reconciled ourselves t o London radio, despite the abundance of radio stations and TVs, and Internet, which consumes everything. But it did not consume London radio, because the surrounding plains are full of thorns of honesty, exactness, and sedateness which those who have weaknesses cannot approach.

London radio lost its domination of broadcast news, but it did not lose accuracy and vigour of news content, so it is still a reference when it comes to very important news, when it is said that the news is broadcast by London radio.

During the first Gulf war, our main relations were with CNN. We enjoyed watching wars in our Arab neighbourhood in sound and picture, after listening to London radio sound alone. And this alone does not track our advance in war.

BBC [TV] was able to take the place of the BBC, but it failed to assume its popularity! CNN did not represent the free US media as much as it represented Quixotic media, delivering acrobatic championships during cinematic news b! ulletins.

CNN lost its reputation quickly, and viewers regretted the disappearance of the reverence associated with London radio.

Between the first and second Gulf wars, the BBC started an experiment with television in the Arab region by launching the BBC in Arabic, but this did not last long; financial hardships caused the channel to be stopped. Al-Jazeera was lucky, as it inherited qualified and trained elite staff from BBC Arabic, so Al-Jazeera became a cornerstone in the televised information media in the Arab culture, just as London radio was a cornerstone in the radio information media.

Al-Jazeera inherited a lot from the BBC in terms of human resources, technicians, and professionals, but not accuracy and reverence, so this tarnished its reputation among a segment of Arab viewers, as happened with CNN before it.

Now, on the occasion of its 70th anniversary, the BBC announces that it intends to launch an Arabic news channel that will become the! first and sole BBC broadcast to the Arab world and the rest of the wo rld - through t hree means: Radio, television, and the Internet, bbc.com. This means that the Arab viewer can again set his watch according to London radio time.

After 70 years of working in Arabic and for the Arab listener, does the BBC deserve our thanks?

Thank you, BBC, for your initiative, as Arabic was the first foreign broadcast language of the English [as published] corporation, for the experiences, media and educational lessons, and credibility, which is relative of course, since there is no absolute credibility in the world.

Thank you London radio for giving a lesson in how to keep one's media unbiased, even if one was an ally in the war. The expression: "This is London" gave a lesson in how to be here even if you are there, and how others should be there even if they are here.

Will history repeat itself? When the term "This is London" is televised, and the generational conflict returns between parents who look for revered and serious media a! nd sons who ask for so-called amusing scandalous media?

Will the BBC's founders realize the feasibility of cutting a small share from the broadcast cake for the mouths of the generation of entertainment?

Source: Al-Hayat website, London, in Arabic 9 Jan 08



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