By Ali Sharaya
Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat-For the last three decades, Saudi Television's Channel Two- the kingdom's official English language network station- has played an important and significant role in rectifying ideas, clarifying facts, and changing stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims.
Channel Two began transmission at the beginning of 1982 with a number of religious, social, and political goals, most of which it has successfully achieved. Channel Two General Manager Suleiman al-Humud summarized the main goals that the channel strives to achieve. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that: "Channel Two aims to reach as many people as possible, as well as conveying the local picture and the cultural, political, and economic heritage, through the variety of programs, reports, interviews, live programming, and talk shows it offers." He added: "The channel now broadcasts around the clock and has started to deliver detailed newscasts, as well as news headlines."
Channel Two undertakes the responsibility of addressing a major social and religious concern. Al-Humud explained this concern by stressing that: "among the channel's goals is to rectify misconceptions about Saudi society and Islam. This is in addition to creating a common bond between the Saudi society and other societies that serves as a point of agreement." He added: "This is through emphasizing the common points that bring them together, foremost among which is that the Islamic Saudi society is a loving society that seeks everything that preserves mankind." He stated: "This is in addition to highlighting the role of the kingdom in global culture and its efforts in supporting global stability and security."
In 1982, Saudi Arabia's channel Two only transmitted 10 hours worth of programming a day and was targeted towards foreign residents in the kingdom. This is because of the large number of expatriates living in the kingdom and the channel was launched to provide some form of entertainment for them and shed light on the country's cultural and economic heritage. Because of its reliance on terrestrial transmission at that time, foreign residents were the channel's main target audience.
Back then, the channel presented newscasts in English and French and some translated awareness programs, in addition to some sports and children's programs in English. Also, it often played a role in supporting Channel One through airing live events, such as soccer matches, simultaneously with it.
In pointing out the goals of the channel, the general manager of Saudi Television Channel Two said: "We are also devoting attention to educating the foreign communities in the country about the existing regulations. This is in addition to educating those who wish to come to the kingdom about the measures and regulations by which they must abide. Moreover, we are concerned with correcting false news in the event of its emergence, in addition to the preservation of sound ideas."
Channel Two has created a large network of correspondents around the world. It has also sought the help of several experienced newscasters and announcers, particularly after it entered the stage of broadcasting to Europe and North America in the middle of 2007.
Al-Humud stressed that the most significant step that Channel Two has implemented is manifest in producing 75 percent of the programs it airs. He considered this to be a high percentage compared to similar channels, in terms of the variety of programs it offers. These programs include talk shows that aim at changing the existing erroneous ideas while committing to Islamic values and customs and traditions, in addition to variety, educational, entertainment, cultural, and religious programs. They also include programs that aim at delivering all the official information regarding the rules and regulations, economic programs, the provision of information about investment attractions, and the clarification of the incentives intended to encourage investment in Saudi Arabia.
The general manager of Saudi Television Channel Two pointed out that the channel devotes attention to youth and sports programs. He added that this is in addition to broadcasting world events and local and Gulf series that are dubbed in English. He explained that this is made possible through the help of some firms and institutions specialized in this field.
Saudi Television was established in 1962, when Prince Faisal Bin Abdulaziz (the crown prince and prime minister at that time) issued a ministerial statement in which he announced the Saudi Government's intention to begin television broadcasting in the country. As a result, in 1963, the cabinet endorsed a two-phase plan to establish Saudi Television in the country. The first phase involved the building of two temporary stations in Riyadh and Jeddah, and the second involved the establishment of an integrated television system on a more advanced basis.
On 7 July 1965, official broadcasting began from the Riyadh and Jeddah stations in black and white and the first signal was transmitted from these two television stations. There was only one channel available at that time under the name of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA] Channel, whose transmissions ended at 2000 hours. A couple of years later, television transmission reached the honorable Mecca and Al-Taif from the Jeddah station in 1967, and then the Medina station began. One year later, transmission reached Al-Qasim and Al-Dammam, followed by Al-Bahah, Hail, and Asir. Finally, transmission reached all areas successively.
In 1974, official color broadcasting was introduced for the first time in Jeddah and Mecca, then in Riyadh in 1976. Saudi Television began to transmit events taking place outside the kingdom only a few hours after their occurrence. At the end of 1974, one of Saudi Television's greatest accomplishments was manifest in broadcasting the performance of Hajj rituals to the entire world through satellite networks. This was a huge accomplishment for which Saudi Television won the praise and appreciation of 700 million Muslims, according to the statistics conducted in this regard.
Currently, Saudi Television broadcasts on eight channels. These channels are Channel One and Channel Two, in addition to five specialized sports and news channels, an economic channel, a children's channel, and the two Holy Koran and Prophet's Sunnah channels.
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