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Arabic channel unhappy with rejection of RTL7

21 March 2007 - Arabic entertainment channel Rotana is happy that the General Programme Council (APR) has advised to carry the channel on the Amsterdam cable, but it is less happy with the advice to sacrifice commercial channel RTL7 to make room for Rotana. The APR says it had no choice.

The advice to remove RTL7 in favour of an Arabic channel predictably resulted in Islamophobic abuse on internet forums and in the PVV asking questions in Parliament. The PVV speaks of ‘irrational decisions motivated by political correctness and multiculturalism rather than the interests of the viewers’.

Rotana Spokesperson Ruud Nijhout has mixed feelings about the APR advice. “That they decided to name a channel that was to disappear in exchange for us is their responsibility”.

Nijhout is not happy with Rotana and RTL7 being juxtaposed in this way. “To be honest, that is not something I wished for. We did not ask for that, we only asked, what does the APR think about the offer of Rotana”.

Incidentally, cable television provider UPC still has to decide whether or not to carry Rotana, and if so, whether RTL7 will have to go. The company has suggested the latter is not likely.

Els van Loenen, Secretary of the APR, indicates that it was inevitable to name a channel that would have to disappear in favour of Rotana. “We do not like doing that, not at all, for we know that this always means letting down a group of viewers, but since the number of channels is fixed, we have to. The problem would disappear if UPC would add one or two channels”.

RTL7 was excluded from the advice because few people watch the channel and because of the wish to have a diverse selection of TV channels on offer. The channel

The APR received many telephone calls in response to the advice. “That did give us something of a shock, the tone, especially from consumers. There have been responses of which we say, well, it is a pity that they respond to it in such a way”.

Rotana has been announced as a family channel, but according to Nijhout it is not an Arabic RAI Uno. “No, it has some characteristics in common with MTV; especially in Europe a substantial amount of music will be broadcast”. In addition, the channel will bring shows, movies and games.

Rotana, which is owned by the Saudi prince Al-Waleed, was founded in 1987 as a record label. The company produces CD’s by artists including Najwa Karam, Amr Diab and Majida el Roumi (see illustration above).

In addition, the company has grown into a media company with television channels that are broadcast throughout the Arab world. “It is true that many people in Europe do not know Rotana, but it is nevertheless one of the largest channels in the Arab world”, Nijhout said.

At the end of last year, the company started to focus on Europe, with the Rotana Music Europe (RME) channel among others. On a trial basis, Rotana is carried by the cable provider in Schiedam and Westland, as well as in a number of large cities in the UK.

In the Netherlands, the company thinks there is a potential target group of 1.5 to 2 million people who understand Arabic. An important part of this group consists of Moroccans. Nijhout acknowledges that many Moroccans speak Berber (Tamazigh) and know little Arabic. “That has our attention”.

In the future Rotana will perhaps be subtitled, although Nijhout indicates that the role of language must not be exaggerated. “The music we will broadcast is rather universal, and subtitles will not be strictly necessary. After all, we do not subtitle French chansons in the Netherlands either”.


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