Future News: News channel or new oracle?

Future TV, the media empire belonging to the Al-Hariri family, is about to launch a brand-new 24-hours news channel. The timing couldn't be better: with a bit of luck, Future News can be the first to announce the name of the new Lebanese president.
By Rita Barotta, Menassat.com Staff Writer
Future News' new studio in the Kantari neighborhood of Beirut. R.R.

BEIRUT, Nov. 20, 2007 (MENASSAT.COM) - Is it a coincidence that on the day Lebanon's parliament is to assemble to elect a new president, a new 24-hours news channel decides to start broadcasting?

At least, that was the plan. There was some doubt today whether Future News, the new 24-hour news channel of Future TV, would be able to meet its November 21 launch date.

(Of course, the elections too have been postponed, yet again, until Friday so the two might still coincide.)

For some it’s just breaking the spell, since this channel might finally reveal the name of the new president that would end the deep political crisis in the country.
For other’s it just looks good to promote for such a channel at such a crucial time, and on the eve of the Lebanese Independence Day (the 22nd of November) as well.

But for some, it is just another monopolized media, this one owned by Al Hariri’s empire, also a major force in the Lebanese government.

Who said that the new generation of Lebanese journalists is craving for a job? “Future News” opened its arms, inviting them to become members of its growing (and growing) family.

And who said that, in a country that faces a crisis after the other, possibilities are limited? Some of the brightest names (and most famous faces) in the Lebanese media have joined the new channel, leaving behind them their good old companies.

It all started with a campaign with the slogan “Watch us before you take any decisive decision”, which was plastered on billboards all over the country in the past weeks.

We tried to find out a bit more about the project.

But we learned that it was impossible to reach him, since he was in over his head with last-minute changes ahead of the launching.

“He” is Nadim Al Munla, the project manager for “Future News” (ex-CEO of “Future TV”).

“After July’s war, we were obliged to broadcast many news programs and talk-shows. This created an inconvenience, since we had to reduce the time given to other programs. We had to come up with a news channel that deals basically with Lebanese issues. We are not going to compete with Al Jazeera nor Al Arabia, since we are strictly dealing with Lebanese issues”, Al Munla told Al Akhbar newspaper.

Several questions need answering. We'll try to answer them ourselves.

Will “Future News” and “Future TV” become two separate channels?

Not exactly. They will have the “news” in common, but each of them will have its separate programming. “Future News” will become the real source for the news, since there will no longer be a news team for “Future TV”.

What about the logo of the news channel?

It’s the same logo of “Future TV” but in a different color (red).

Will there be a special team recruited for “Future News”?

The news team will include existing Future staff as well as some new faces, such as Nidal Ayoub, currently still with LBCI. [Full disclosure: Nidal Ayoub is also Menassat.com's editor in chief.]

What we are certain of is that the old staff at Future TV is overjoyed. Why? Because after many years of working with stone-age computers and technology, they will finally be able to work decently, as befits journalists working for a media empires.

It so happened that we visited several times the locations of Future TV, and asked a presenter how is it possible to work with such old devices. She answered: “It won’t be for long. Soon we are moving to a new location.”

And her wish was granted.

In the Kantari area, an illuminated building now stands at the new location of Future News, equipped with the latest technology.

It’s true that Future News has recruited several excellent journalists, but it is also true that over the past three years, Future has lost a huge number of its top names.

Al Munla explains these facts by saying that Lebanese journalists are in high demand by media outlets all over the Arab world. So, it’s only normal that some of his crew should have left the company to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

But what he didn’t say (and what a friend who quit her job at Future TV told us about) is that wages in the company are extremely low.

Are we off-topic?

We can only wish that the new channel will be a real media platform that promotes news, instead of merely the agenda of the political dynasty it belongs to.