Outspoken Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal launches pan-Arab news channel

Alarab News Channel staff are seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Alarab News Channel staff are seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Alarab News Channel staff are seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Alarab News Channel staff are seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
A visitor poses for a picture at Alarab News Channel office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
A visitor poses for a picture at Alarab News Channel office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Alarab News Channel staff are seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Alarab News Channel staff are seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
A photo taken on April 22, 2014, shows Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaking during his visit to Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. -- PHOTO: AFP
A photo taken on April 22, 2014, shows Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal speaking during his visit to Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Alarab News Channel officer is seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
An Alarab News Channel officer is seen on duty at the editorial office in the Bahraini capital Manama on Dec 15, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

MANAMA (AFP) - Outspoken billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal on Sunday launched a pan-Arab satellite news channel aimed at challenging established networks in the region.

From a studio lit in green and white, the Bahrain-based Alarab News Channel took to the air, leading with a story about Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, whom the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed in a video late Saturday to have beheaded.

Alarab is the latest player in the Arabic-language television market, after Qatar-subsidised Al-Jazeera became the first regional news broadcaster 19 years ago.

It will also be a rival for Dubai-based Al-Arabiya, established in 2003 and owned by Sheikh Waleed al-Ibrahim, a brother-in-law of Saudi Arabia's late King Fahd.

Alwaleed also belongs to the Saudi royal family and is a nephew of King Abdullah, who died on January 23.

In a highly conservative Islamic kingdom, Alwaleed, who holds no government rank, is unusual for his high profile and periodic comments about economic issues.

Critics have accused the established broadcasters of reflecting their owners' political views, especially during the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings against authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and North Africa.

Both long-running channels deny any slant in their coverage.

Jamal Khashoggi, Alarab's general manager, said the new channel will be even-handed.

"We are not going to take sides," he told AFP in an interview.

"I think a news channel should not have a political agenda... We should just be a news channel that provides accurate, objective information."