State-owned Saudi media companies based in Dubai will start moving staff this month to Riyadh, as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman pushes ahead with his plans to turn the kingdom into a regional business centre.
This move comes in the wake of the Saudi government’s decision to stop granting government contracts to companies and commercial establishments based in other countries in the Middle East.
Two other sources told Reuters that the state-owned Al Arabiya and Al Hadath channels informed their employees this week of plans to start broadcasting 12 hours a day from Riyadh by next January, adding that it may take up to two years to complete the transfer.
The sources disclosed that MBC Group, the largest media company in the Middle East, and Asharq News, a newly-established television news channel, also internally discussed plans to move to Riyadh.
The Saudi government acquired a majority stake in MBC Group when the authorities seized assets of those prosecuted in an anti-corruption investigation in 2018.
The headquarters of MBC, Al Arabiya and Al Hadath are located in Dubai Media City (the UAE’s media centre), which includes hundreds of media companies and most of their headquarters in the Middle East. Asharq is based in the Dubai International Financial Centre.
Al Arabiya and Al Hadath did not respond to requests for comment. However, MBC confirmed in a statement sent to Reuters that in February 2020, the group’s president announced the intention to establish new headquarters in Riyadh that will include establishing a business and production centre.
“Our plans are on the right track,” the statement added.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg talked about plans to relocate media companies.
Despite being close allies, Saudi Arabia and the neighbouring Emirates are competing to attract investors and companies, and are adopting plans to diversify their economies beyond oil production.
The two countries’ interests have increasingly diverged over the past few years, as have their views on issues in the region, including ties with Israel and Turkey.