Alwaleed’s Alarab Halts Broadcasting, Cites Technical Issues

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Alarab television channel has been temporarily suspended for “administrative and technical purposes,” a day after its launch by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

The satellite station is working with Bahrain authorities “to swiftly resolve the matter, which is expected to see broadcasting resume shortly,” the country’s Information Affairs Authority said in an e-mailed statement today. Akhbar Al-Khaleej newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information, that programming was halted after the channel failed to adhere to “norms prevailing in the Gulf states,” including “neutral media attitudes.”

Alarab is the latest Arabic-language news channel to open in the oil-rich Persian Gulf region, and will compete against Doha-based Al-Jazeera and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya satellite news channels. The Manama-based channel started broadcasting on Sunday and is backed by Prince Alwaleed, who owns Kingdom Holding Co. and has stakes in companies including Citigroup Inc. and Twitter Inc.

Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, faced the most violent demonstrations among the Gulf Cooperation Council states during the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, with mainly Shiite protesters demanding greater democracy and improved rights from the country’s Sunni rulers. Backed by security forces from other GCC states, Bahrain cracked down on the protests, leaving 35 people dead.

In one of Alarab’s first broadcasts on Sunday, it carried an interview with Khalil al-Marzooq from the Shiite party al-Wefaq, who discussed the government’s decision to strip 72 Bahraini activists of their citizenship. The channel later interviewed the country’s Information Minister Isa Abdulrahman on the same subject.

Bahrain “strongly denies” the suspension is linked to the interview with al-Marzooq, according to an e-mailed statement from the Information Affairs Authority.

Bloomberg LP has an agreement with Alarab to support the creation of five hours of branded financial and economic news programing throughout the day on the channel.