New 'Saudi Now' TV channel launches in 'entertainment drive'

New 'Saudi Now' TV channel launches in 'entertainment drive'
The Saudi Broadcasting Authority has launched the new state-owned 'Saudi Now' TV channel, aimed at promoting national events in line with the government's Vision 2030.
2 min read
26 September, 2023
The Saudi capital Riyadh has hosted performances and events amid Crown Prince Mohammed's social 'liberalisation' policy [Getty Images]

Saudi Arabia launched a new state-owned satellite channel on Monday in the country's drive to make the kingdom a regional centre for entertainment.

A ceremony celebrating the launch of Saudia Alaan ("Saudi Now") was attended by ministers, journalists, and community leaders.

It will broadcast key national and entertainment events held in the country with billions spent by Riyadh to boost sports, music, and film in the kingdom.

In the past year alone, the number of licensed activities and entertainment events in Saudi shot up by 367 percent, reaching 5,650 in total, amid accusations of "sportswashing".

The Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat reported that Saudia Alaan will cover "current progress in the kingdom [by covering] domestic, regional and international events and conferences in the political, economic, education and entertainment fields".

Saudi Arabia also aims to transform itself into a regional media hub with the launch of the channel attended by Minister of Media and Chairman of the Broadcasting Authority Salman bin Yusuf Al-Dosari.

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He confirmed the channel's role would align with Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030, which aims at diversifying the economy away from a reliance on oil and gas receipts.

Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 will also see the relocation of key media outlets from abroad to Riyadh and a focus on digital platforms.

Most forms of media in the country - including newspapers, films, television, books, and websites - face heavy censorship.

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The kingdom has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on megaprojects aimed at stimulating and diversifying its economy away from petrodollars.

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has embarked on a series of social reforms but the changes have been accompanied by greater political repression and a crackdown on dissent.

This included the sentencing of activists to long jail terms over posts on social media and the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by state agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The CIA, the US intelligence agency, reported that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for the operation, which he has denied.