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BBC World Service to launch Arabic TV channel to rival Al Jazeera

LONDON - The BBC World Service is to axe around 10 of its radio services around the world to fund the ambitious launch of an Arabic-language TV station to rival Al Jazeera.

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The cuts will mainly affect foreign-language services in Eastern Europe in order to find around £20m-£25m of savings to pay for the new as-yet-unnamed Arabic TV service.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which funds the World Service, was due to make an announcement today about the service, which is set to launch in 2007 and is expected to be a free-to-air satellite service for the Middle East.

This is the second attempt by BBC World Service to launch an Arabic TV station. In 1994, it launched a pay-per-view service but it closed shortly afterwards with many of its staff moving to Al Jazeera.

It is understood that some of the services facing the axe in eastern Europe are seen as less relevant today because of the end of the Soviet Bloc and emergence of their own media.

Other services likely to be cut, according to media reports, are those in Thai and Kazak.

The launch of new BBC service comes as Al Jazeera moves ahead with its plans for an English-language station next spring. The station, which has signed up Sir David Frost as a presenter, will compete with BBC World and CNN.

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