Al Arabiya starts with limited ads

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[cairo] As an impending war in Iraq boosted demand for news, new satellite TV channel Al Arabiya began airing Feb. 20 with 12 hours of news daily and a smattering of advertising, mainly from General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. (AA, Feb. 3). Arabiya plans to move to a 24-hour schedule this week. Ad executives said they don't expect Arabiya to pick up a lot of advertising in its first few weeks although they said the new channel has promise. It is a $200 million joint venture between Dubai-based Middle East Broadcasting Centre and investors from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. "We have to wait and see what they are delivering. But if something happens in Iraq and they were able to have exclusive coverage, that could affect it," said Talal Dhulaymi, chairman of Omnicom Group's Promoaction DDB in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Officials said Arabiya intends to reach breakeven with advertising in 12 months. The channel is meant to be more moderate than Al Jazeera, the first Arabic all-news channel.

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