Saudis’ sudden closure of BBC Arabic channel gave Qatar pick of more than 150 talented BBC-trained Arab presenters, writers, producers and technicians
The demand by Saudi Arabia that al‑Jazeera be closed is deeply ironic as it was unwittingly responsible for the TV channel’s original very successful launch (Saudis demand Qatar shut down al-Jazeera, 24 June). I was managing editor of the BBC Arabic TV channel in the mid-1990s. The Saudis objected so strongly to our output that they shut us down by taking us off the satellite that they owned.
At around the same time, Qatar was trying to get al-Jazeera off the ground, but with little success – chiefly because they could not get the right staff. With the sudden closure of the BBC channel, they had the pick of more than 150 talented BBC-trained Arab presenters, writers, producers and technicians. So, in November 1996, the channel went on the air, staffed chiefly by ex-BBC people who had taken with them the corporation’s ethos of balance, fairness and honesty.