Dubai - Dubai-based Saudi state-ownedmedia companies will start moving staff this month to thecapital Riyadh, sources said, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman presses ahead with plans to remould the kingdom as a egional business hub.
The move follows a Saudi government decision earlier this year to stop giving state contracts to companies and commercial institutions that base their Middle East headquarters in anyother country in the region. State-owned Al-Arabiya and Al Hadath TV channels informedtheir employees this week about plans to start broadcasting 12hours a day from Riyadh by next January, two sources familiarwith the matter told Reuters. They added that it could take up to two years to completethe relocation. MBC Group, the Middle East's largest media company, andAsharq News, a newly created television news channel, have alsointernally discussed plans to move to Riyadh, the sources said. The Saudi government took ownership of a majority stake inMBC Group when authorities acted to seize assets from thosecaught up in an anti-corruption investigation in 2018. MBC, Arabiya and Hadath are based in Dubai Media City, theUnited Arab Emirates' media hub that hosts hundreds of mediacompanies and most of their Middle East headquarters. AsharqNews is based in Riyadh but has a large hub in DubaiInternational Financial Centre (DIFC). Arabiya and Hadath did not respond to requests for comment. MBC said in a statement sent to Reuters that back inFebruary 2020 the MBC Group chairman publicly announced theintention to establish a new headquarters in Riyadh which wouldinvolve creating a business and production hub. "Our plans are on track," the statement said.
Asharq News, owned by Saudi Research and Marketing Group, said that since its inception Riyadh was the main hubfor the network operations, with regional offices, including inDubai. "Back in February 2020, the company that owns Asharq ...signed an agreement to be a part of the intended MediaCity/Creative Zone in Riyadh," it added. Bloomberg reported about the media companies' relocationplans earlier this week. Despite being close allies, Saudi Arabia and theneighbouring UAE are competing to attract investors andbusinesses as they both pursue plans to diversify theireconomies in a post-oil era. Their national interests have diverged increasingly over thepast few years, as well as their views on regional issues suchas in their relations with Israel and Turkey.