Saudi Arabia to launch English news channel as Al Jazeera competitor - report

Saudi Arabia to launch English news channel as Al Jazeera competitor - report
A state-backed media group is looking to "spread the word of Saudi around the world", sources familiar with the project told the Financial Times.
2 min read
11 May, 2023
Funding for the media network would reportedly be 'off the scale' [Getty]

Saudi Arabia is looking to expand its international media influence with an English-language news network to rival Qatar's Al-Jazeera, according to a recent report by the Financial Times newspaper.

The state-backed Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG) reached out to media consultancies regarding the venture, according to sources cited by the FT.

The sources, who are reportedly familiar with the project, said the initiative aimed to "spread the word of Saudi around the world".

SRMG, which has links to top Saudi royals, runs the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and television channel Asharq News.

Funding for the media network would be "off the scale", an FT source said.

Saudi Arabia is undergoing an ambitious overhaul of its economy, as outlined in Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's 'Vision 2030' plan.

Riyadh is investing hundreds of billions in infrastructure projects aimed at attracting tourism and foreign investment to wean the kingdom of its reliance on oil revenues. 

But the effort to rebrand its global image has been marred by a crackdown on dissent, which has included the jailing of hundreds of activists and the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi's killing further tarnished the kingdom's international standing, leading to calls for a boycott of Riyadh.

Prince Mohammed, known as MbS, has been directly linked to Khashoggi's death by US intelligence and other organisations which have investigated the matter, although Riyadh always denied the crown prince ordered the journalist's assassination and said the killers had been punished. 

Years after the Khashoggi affair, Saudi Arabia's confidence appears renewed, having defied US pressure over the war in Ukraine and securing a pause in open animosity with regional rival Iran.