Behind the scenes of the world's first 24-hour Arabic news channel
Walking into the studios of Sky News Arabia, the excitement and energy is palpable. When it launched just over a month ago, this local branch of Sky News became the first Arabic-language news channel to supply 24-hour rolling news and to broadcast 24/7. It’s also the first news channel in the region to embrace social media across all platforms: Sky News Arabia mobile apps are available for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android devices.
The average age of the staff is 33, which speaks volumes of the channel’s target audience. ‘We’re really aiming to be on the spot with our reporting, and we love getting on board with social media,’ explains 30-year-old Emirati news presenter Faisal Bin Huraiz. ‘We feel this is vital in terms of reaching out to a younger demographic of viewers. Everyone that works at Sky News Arabia is quite young, and this helps us to target the youth of the Middle East. The main challenge for us is to be there as everything is happening – to be in the right place at the right time. We strive to get the story out first, but we’re careful not take any sides: we just report the news as it is. Transparency is key.’
Before joining the channel, Faisal was part of the team that launched the news centre at Abu Dhabi Radio, where he worked as a presenter and reporter, and later as news bulletin editor. He then moved from radio to TV to work at Abu Dhabi TV as a news presenter, hosting Uloom Al Dar.
Sky News is a globally recognised station, which is why Faisal believes it will play an integral role in developing journalism in the region. ‘When I heard Sky News was coming here, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I can’t wait for all the opportunities this role will bring, and the experiences that will develop my learning. Also, I get to wear traditional dress [on live TV], which makes me very happy.’
Once Faisal is whisked off to present The Morning Show, we have the opportunity to sit down with Jordanian news director Nart Bouran. ‘So you’re the one that made my reporter late into his news chair!’ he jests. At least, we hope he’s joking.
Nart is friendly, confident and ultimately very proud of what the channel has already been able to achieve. ‘We depend on the reporters giving us the news, so our main day-to-day objective is to get them on screen to give us a rundown on where they are and what they’re doing on location. Their main job is to hit the story hard very, very quickly.’
Nart explains the importance of having credible sources for stories, particularly here in the Middle East. ‘It’s really important to make sure we’re getting the right information – our main mantra is that our reporters are the main source of news. The other thing that sets us apart is that we have no recorded programming – we are live 24/7. So obviously it’s always a challenge to maintain the strength and the rhythm of what we’re reporting. We try to do things differently and mix things up a little so we can always be relevant and look good.’
With a dedicated team of hairdressers and make-up artists on hand, looking good is the one thing they needn’t worry about. The pace and energy of the newsroom is infectious – and with such pervasive social media, they’re making sure everyone outside can feel it too. See Faisal present The Morning Show daily at midday. www.skynewsarabia.com.
Sky News Arabia in numbers
Number of staff: 400, chosen from 24,000 applicants Number of staff in the newsroom: 170 Average age of staff: 33 Number of nationalities: 36 Number of regional news bureaux: 10 Number of international bureaux: 2