Vienna, May 4 – Today, the Russian news channel “TV-Novosti” launched Moscow’s first Arabic-language satellite television channel, “Rusiya al’-Yaum” (“Russia Today”), to broadcast news and information about Russia, Russian-Arab relations, and the life of Muslims in the Russian Federation to the Arab world.
The new channel, which its website -- http://www.rtarabic.com -- notes, will carry programming 20 hours a day, seven days a week, and be distributed from Moscow via the satellite services, BADR-4, Nilesat-103, and Hot Bird-6, to a potential audience of 350 million people.
Some of the station’s programs, its director Yevgeniy Sidorov said, will be original, prepared by a staff of 466 in Moscow, including 94 journalists and technicians from the Arab world. But many of its programs will be produced elsewhere and then be rendered by the station’s staff into Arabic. All of it is to be available online as well.
Not surprisingly, Russia’s Muslims are excited by this development because if Moscow wants to improve its image in the Arab world and the Islamic world more generally, it may be forced to treat its own Muslims better than it has in the past. At the very least, Muslims there will seek to exploit that possibility. .
Whether they succeed or not – and the odds are that they will -- will say a great deal not only about the level of Moscow’s concerns about the Arab world but also about where the Russian government is heading with regard to the fastest growing group in its population.