Al Jazeera might have some new competition. Financial media giant Bloomberg is reportedly in talks with Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud of Saudi Arabia to launch a new Arabic-language business news channel–a move which could shake up foreign media and cause massive headaches for Rupert Murdoch.
Prince Alwaleed is the second-largest shareholder in Murdoch’s News Corp. If Alwaleed goes through with the launch of the new channel, it could be interpreted an apparent shift in loyalty away from the embattled media tycoon.
Regional newspapers are reporting that Bloomberg and Alwaleed are in talks to launch the new channel, which would be formally announced within the next two months. Bloomberg already has a separate Turkish-language channel.
For the Middle East, this will mean a major new business-media player from abroad. Right now the world of Arabic-language business channels is dominated by CNBC Arabia, with Al Jazeera trying to catch up through the network’s financial programming. Al Jazeera lacks a dedicated business channel. In the meantime, Bloomberg’s expansion into the Middle East is a preemptive strike against Murdoch. British Sky Broadcasting’s Sky News Arabia (currently in the news for its ties to Murdoch) is slated for a 2012 launch.
In essence, this will mean Alwaleed will be competing against himself. Alternately, it could mean Alwaleed–a media tycoon who controls much of the Arabic-language pop music and film industries–is hedging his bets when it comes to Murdoch’s current troubles. Either way, Al Jazeera notes that Alwaleed’s handling of the phone hacking case indicates some serious ambivalence about News Corp’s future.
Bloomberg will be positioning itself as a primary news source for a region of the world that’s perpetually in the news. It’s also partnering with an insanely rich Saudi Prince who has become the go-to man for foreign brands looking to enter the Middle Eastern media market. Arabic-language journalists will also be happy to have another A-list employer entering the market. But for News Corp, this is just one more headache in a summer that’s been filled with problems.