The Hala TV group was granted a license yesterday to operate an Arabic-language cable and satellite channel, which is expected to hit the air in January.
It's a case of third time lucky for the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council, which failed twice in the past in its effort to set up a dedicated channel in Arabic. (Channel 9, also known as Channel Plus, was previously launched as a Russian-language station. )
The channel will be available for free through both cable and satellite outlets. If Hala requests it, the new channel could also be made available through the Idan + digital broadcast service.
According to the new channel's CEO, Joseph Atrash, the company has been working on pilot programs for several months. Jafar Farah, one of the operating company's partners, says the company has produced three pilot episodes of a lifestyle program, and it is using focus groups to choose a host for the show.
Pilots have also been shot for a current events program, a children's show, and series for young people that will begin with a competition to choose young hosts for the shows.
At the ceremony yesterday at which the license was awarded, Hala chairman Ziad Omari asked Communications Minister Moshe Kahlon to receive the funding currently provided to Hot for producing a local Arab-language news broadcast, so that the new channel could produce the program itself.
The Hala TV group includes both Arab and Jewish partners, among them the publisher of the magazine Panorama, Bassem Jabber, and the 3 Sectors advertising firm (the largest in the Arab community ), as well as the Channel 2 franchisee Reshet, the content and production company Ananey Communications, and several individuals.
Ananey Communications had been involved in a previous attempt to establish an Arabic channel, in 2005. Then, after it won the tender, it decided to return the license, claiming it was not economically feasible to sustain the channel.
The current effort by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council to set up an Arabic channel began in 2009, with the tender undergoing numerous major adjustments.
The council is now preparing tenders for two more dedicated channels, a news channel and a Jewish-content channel.