New Saudi TV channel feeds into modernisation drive

An employee works with trainees at the studio of the new channel Saudi Broadcasting Corporation in Riyadh. — AFP
An employee works with trainees at the studio of the new channel Saudi Broadcasting Corporation in Riyadh. - AFP

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - Branded "SBC", the channel will broadcast exclusive content including films, talk shows and cooking programmes.



By AFP

Published: Sun 13 May 2018, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 May 2018, 11:08 PM

Saudi Arabia's ambitious reform drive takes another step forward this week, with the launch of a new public TV channel that seeks to attract young viewers and project a modern image beyond the kingdom's borders.
Branded "SBC", the channel will broadcast exclusive content including films, talk shows and cooking programmes.
The move follows the launch earlier this month of a $35 billion drive to turn Saudi Arabia into a culture and entertainment hub by 2020.
"This is a general channel that's seeking to attract the new generation of Saudis," said the station's director Dawood Shirian, a frank-talking TV personality who previously hosted a talk show tapping into the public's gripes. "Most of the content, about 75 per cent, is geared towards the youth between 15 and 35 years old," Shirian said, adding that SBC would "complement the changes seen in the kingdom in the artistic, cultural and entertainment spheres".
Shirian was poached late last year from private rival MBC to head up the state-run Saudi Broadcasting Corporation, and to mastermind the launch of SBC. The move was seen as a deliberate shock for the state broadcaster - one in a series of changes guided by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Crown Prince Mohammed, who declared to foreign investors in Riyadh last October that his generation of Saudis "want to live a normal life", is seen as the guiding hand behind the lifting of longstanding social restrictions. The kingdom last year announced a decades-long ban on women driving would be lifted - a decision slated to take effect on June 24. Like Saudi Arabia's nascent entertainment industry, which aims to convince citizens to spend their riyals at home, SBC is positioning itself as a magnet for hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising money.
"As it stands, 90 per cent of these budgets are going outside Saudi Arabia, and this channel's mission is to repatriate that money, along with (skilled) young Saudis," said Shirian.
SBC will become the entertainment flagship for the Saudi Broadcasting Corporation, whose portfolio also includes two channels dedicated to the Holy Quran readings and education and news-dedicated channel Al Ekhbariya.
 


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