Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat talks to “Sky News Arabia” chief Nart Bouran | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat just a few weeks before his new Arabic-language news channel is set to air, Sky News Arabia chief Nart Bouran stressed his commitment to high-quality, independent journalism. In an exclusive interview with Asharq Al-Awsat conducted at the Sky News studios in Beirut, Bouran spoke about Sky News Arabia’s media policy, his hopes for the future of the channel, and his view of Arab media in general.

Nart Bouran is the director of the “Sky News Arabia” channel, which is set to broadcast across 50 million households in the MENA region from Spring 2012. Nart possesses a wealth of experience from a career in journalism that spans more than 20 years. He has worked extensively across the Middle East, covering major stories in countries such as Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. Bouran joined Sky News Arabia from Thomson Reuters, where he was Director of Television for the Reuters News Agency. He also previously served as the Director General of the Jordan Radio and Television Corporation, and Director of News for Abu Dhabi TV.

The following is the full interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is the key objective of Sky News Arabia? Where do you envision its place amongst other Arab-language news channels?

[Bouran] We are certain that we will be different [to other Arab-language news channels] in many ways. This is the policy that we have adopted since the announcement of the establishment of this channel. This was present in our recruitment policy, where we provided opportunities to all those who were interested in joining this channel. We received 24,000 requests, and we ultimately selected those who were the most qualified and who fit our requirements and objectives. This is something that also applies to the media rules that we are following as well as the technology and equipment that we will use. I must also state that our project is a comprehensive multimedia project, including a website, a smartphone app, as well as social media, therefore the journalists at Sky News Arabia are not just television presenters…and this will be reflected in our round-the-clock live broadcasts, and our focus on breaking news stories and being the first on the scene.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you tell us what media policies Sky News Arabia intends to follow?

[Bouran] We confirm that we are a completely independent [news] channel, and that we are not connected to any “agenda”. This was clear from the beginning between the founders of this channel, “Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp” and BSkyB, which is the UK’s leading pay television provider. Thus, we will maintain the media standards that Britain’s Sky News is known for, as it has a reputation of impartiality and independence, as well as innovative media coverage, since its foundation in 1989. The strategy that we have adopted, and the objectives that we are seeking to reach, are based on a clear code of media ethics, and we have trained our staff on this basis. This staff has come to us from different media outlets which have their own policies and [political] orientation, so our media policy is clear and we agree on the manner and style of this.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How will Sky News Arabia ensure this objectivity and credibility? How would you have covered the Arab Spring revolutions, for example?

[Bouran] For us, news is news…and our job is to cover the news whilst making sure to show the perspective of all parties. Our strength, as a news channel, is that we do not have any agenda. As a journalist, I do not think that there should be any specific policies that restrict our work, therefore I cannot ignore any news; rather I believe it is our duty to present all the news without exaggerating or minimizing its importance. In the end, the Arab viewers will be the judge of this, and we must provide these viewers with their rights in this area, particularly as they are able to know what is happening and access the news via a number of different means.

There is also a specialist supervisory committee to protect this media strategy, and its role is to support our operations. It is made up of experienced specialist and independent media figures, from outside of the organization, who will meet from time to time to observe and evaluate our operations, and ensure that our standards remains high, as well as in order to develop plans for the future. In addition to this, there is a special media program running in parallel with the channel to provide training to university students from the UAE; these students then have the opportunity to complete their journey with us, or join another media outlet.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Where have “Sky News Arabia” established foreign news bureaus? Why did you choose Abu Dhabi as your headquarters?

[Bouran] In addition to the fact that the headquarters of one of our founding companies, namely Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp, is located in the Emirati capital, this is also one of the most important regions in the Arab world. There will be bureaus in 12 other Arab countries, in addition to a Washington and London bureau. What also sets us apart from the rest is the media cooperation between Sky News Arabia and the English-language Sky News channel, with regards to the bureaus that are present in a number of regions like China and Africa, as well as the Moscow bureau. This will ensure that we preserve a high media standard.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Can you tell us about the technology and techniques that Sky News Arabia will utilize?

[Bouran] Sky News Arabia will use the best and most advanced techniques and technology, according to our experts. Our channel will also be available in HD [high definition].

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think the “Sky News” brand will be a burden or assistance to you?

[Bouran] This is an extra source of assistance, and a confirmation of the standards that we must preserve with regards to the excellent reputation that “Sky News” enjoys in the market. The two channels [Sky News and Sky News Arabia] will complete each other. There is also no doubt that extra effort is required from us to show that we are the best.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] How did you choose your journalists and presenters?

[Bouran] As I said before, we gave opportunities to everybody who wanted to join the organization; we conducted interviews and ultimately selected 390 people, including a number of presenters from different cultures and backgrounds in the Arab world. This is consistent with the approach of our channel to build a strong team that brings together familiar faces and youth. Despite the fact that some of the media figures have long experience in this field, our major concern was to introduce a new generation of journalists, and I can say that the average age of our staff is 32 years of age. Our most prominent media figures include Amr Abdelhamid, Fadila Souissi, Yusuf Serif, Rita Malouf, Faisal Bin Huraiz, Nada al-Shaibani, Mohannad Al Khatib, Hassina Ouchene, Jarir Dababneh, Dalia Abdalla, Alma Intabli, Darwish Al Taweel, Imane Lahrache, Osama Khamayseh, Seza Armenazi and Maya Raydan.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Will Sky News Arabia produce any special programs or documentaries?

[Bouran] It is natural that our programs will not only focus on politics and news, but also culture, the economy, medicine, sports and the environment…but this will all be within the framework of Sky News Arabia and its identity. However it is best that we do not go into details here, so that Arab viewers can judge our channel themselves when we begin broadcasting in just a few weeks.