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Saudi MBC Launching New TV Channel For Iran's 'Youth'

Saudi Arabia owned Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) will launch a Persian TV channel on Saturday, October 6, Arab News reports.

Since the majority of the Iranian population are under thirty, the Dubai based MBC, targets the youth in Iran. The new channel is scheduled to initially beam subtitled and dubbed soap operas, comedies, talent shows and Hollywood and Bollywood movies, but, it will start making its exclusive shows for the general entertainment by the end of this year or early 2019.

MBC Group spokesman, Mazen Hayek, says it is contemplating every possible genre of original content, but it is a competitive market, with dozens of Persian channels broadcasting from outside Iran.

Furthermore, the channel will soon be accessible for Iranians living in the U.S.A., Hayek says.

MBC Persia will be beamed via Yahsat, on digital platforms and social media channels. Yahsat is a regional satellite channel provider with good reception in Iran.

Millions of households in Iran use satellite receivers to tune to foreign TV channels with normal entertainment programs and independent news; both severely restricted domestically.

The Middle Eastern giant broadcasting group, founded by one of the brothers-in-law of the late King Fahad of Saudi Arabia in 1991 in Dubai and later moved to London in 2002, has already launched a Persian news website.

MBC Group had a previous attempt to launch a Persian channel nearly a decade ago, but, the project was eventually shelved before its current revival, Arab news reported.

Although, the new channel is apparently a response to several Arabic speaking Radio and TV channels run by the Islamic Republic of Iran to spread its ideology and political influence in the Arab world, Hayek insists, "We believe the youth represent an overwhelming majority among the region’s Persian speakers", adding, "The Iranian youth deserve to have an exceptional family entertainment channel to tune in to."

Meanwhile, referring to the hugely competitive market of the Persian speaking TV channels outside Iran, Hayek maintains, "We will try to (apply) our knowledge at MBC, our lead and expertise in producing content, and in acquiring the best content available, to give the young Persian speakers an amazing experience. Our primary focus would be to compete with the strongest foreign-based TV channels."

Hayek also notes the channel would not have a physical presence in Iran, but that he sees advertising revenues coming from elsewhere once the channel is established.

"We hope that the success of the channel viewership-wise, ratings wise, will lead to subsequent commercial success", Hayek reiterates

The Islamic Republic of Iran already owns several Arabic speaking TV channels, including Al-Alam, Al-Kawther and iFILM.

Strained relations between Tehran and Riyadh and their proxy war in the region, including in Syria and Yemen, has recently forced them to fight for more influence on public opinion in the Middle East.

In a meeting with members of the influential Assembly of Experts on September 6, the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cautioned against U.S.-Israel led "media war" against Tehran, financially backed by some "rich countries" of the region.

However, tight censorship of the local mass media in Iran has led to the ever-growing of the popularity of outside broadcasting news outlets, including the BBC, Manoto, Radio Farda and VOA.

A former Advisor of the Islamic Republic's Ministry of Sports and Youth, Mohammad Reza Rostami has argued that the significant drop in local Radio and TV's audience, "means that foreign-based news outlets are gradually replacing the local ones."

With reporting by Arab News and Gulf Busienss