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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's public broadcaster the BBC launched an Arabic television service on Tuesday with funding from the government to provide what it said would be independent news, analysis and current affairs.
The corporation said the channel would broadcast for an initial 12 hours a day to anyone with a satellite or cable connection in North Africa, the Middle East or the Gulf, before moving to a 24-hour operation later this year.
It will complement the BBC Arabic radio service that is already available and bbcarabic.com, both of which have been relaunched.
"We are encouraged that independent research consistently shows an appetite for a BBC Arabic television channel," Nigel Chapman, the director of BBC World Service, said in a statement.
"The main reason people give is quite simple -- it is because they believe the BBC will provide an independent news service they could trust."
BBC Arabic will compete with popular Arabic satellite channels including Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera, which was founded in 1996 after the collapse of a television joint venture between the BBC World Service and Saudi-owned distributor Orbit.
The channel will draw on the corporation's extensive newsgathering operation, which includes over 250 correspondents reporting from 72 bureaux around the world.
It will have a budget of 25 million pounds per year and the government said last year it would contribute 6 million pounds of that to allow the service to run for 24 hours a day.
Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Dominic Evans