Veteran British broadcaster Sam Barnett steps down as CEO of MBC

Sam Barnett will continue to work with MBC Group in an advisory role from January 2020 'focusing on strategy-related matters.' (Getty Images)
Updated 08 October 2019

Veteran British broadcaster Sam Barnett steps down as CEO of MBC

  • Barnett’s departure comes at a time of rapid expansion at the broadcaster which was originally founded in 1991 in London
  • MBC Group is ramping up investment in its video on demand offering as it goes to head to head with Netflix and Amazon in the region

LONDON: Sam Barnett has resigned as the CEO of MBC Group after 17 years at the region’s biggest broadcaster.

The Dubai-based company behind hit show ‘Arabs Got Talent’ has yet to name his successor.

His departure comes at a challenging time for the region’s big traditional broadcasters who face increasing competition from the booming video on demand sector and new entrants from Netflix to Amazon.

“MBC was the first big broadcaster in the Arab world. It is still the biggest in the region and brought satellite broadcasting to the Arab world. It brought international shows too, and could arguably be seen as the biggest westernizing influence on GCC youth,” said Austyn Allison, the editor of Campaign Middle East.

“It is now looking more to video on demand. It’s up against global giants such as Netflix, but has the edge with its Arabic content, especially the stuff it produces itself. Shows like ‘Arabs Got Talent’ have been huge hits, and it has also been a pioneer of branded content in the region over the years, integrating brands into TV shows with increasing sophistication.”

MBC chairman Waleed Al-Ibrahim paid tribute to Barnett’s contribution to the company in a memo to staff.

“It is with a mix of sadness and gratitude that I would like to inform you of the resignation of our dear colleague Sam Barnett as CEO of MBC Group,” he said.

“Since 2002, Sam has played a pivotal role in the development and great success of the group, leading by example with ambition, resilience, fairness and high standards of integrity and humility, achieving numerous significant accomplishments in the process.”

Barnett will continue to work with the company in an advisory role from January 2020 “focusing on strategy-related matters,” Al-Ibrahim added.

MBC has been investing heavily in creating more homegrown Arabic-language drama comes as global video on demand players from Netflix to Amazon eye the Middle East as a potentially lucrative and under-served market.

Palestinian journalists protest wounding of colleague

Updated 17 November 2019

Palestinian journalists protest wounding of colleague

  • Muath Amarneh has been in an Israeli hospital since he was hit in the eye Friday during clashes
  • Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied Sunday with one eye covered in solidarity

JERUSALEM: “The eyes of truth will never be blinded,” protesters’ placards read, as Palestinian journalists wore eye patches Sunday to decry the wounding of a colleague in the occupied West Bank.
Muath Amarneh has been in an Israeli hospital since he was hit in the eye Friday during clashes between Israeli border police and Palestinian demonstrators in the village of Surif, close to Hebron in the southern West Bank.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists rallied Sunday — protesting with one eye covered in solidarity.
Amarneh, who is being treated in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, said he was some way from the protesters when he was hit by what he believes was Israeli fire.
“After the clashes started, I was standing to the side wearing a flak jacket with press markings and a helmet,” the freelance cameraman told AFP on Sunday.
“Suddenly I felt something hit my eye, I thought it was a rubber bullet or a stone. I put my hand to my eye and found nothing.”
“I couldn’t see and my eye was completely gone.”
He said doctors at the hospital told him a fragment of metal, about 2 centimeters long, pierced the eye and settled behind it near the brain.
Amarneh’s cousin Tareq, accompanying him in hospital, said doctors planned to extract the metal but changed their minds after discovering they could also damage the right eye or even trigger bleeding in the brain.
A spokesman for the Israeli police denied that the photographer was targeted, saying fire was “not directed at all” toward him.
“The security forces operated in the area in front of dozens of rioters, some of them masked, who threw stones at officers and burned tires,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
“The response by the forces was using non-lethal means in order to disperse the rioters.”
Amarneh, who comes from the Dheisheh refugee camp near Bethlehem, claimed he was targeted as a journalist.
“There is an unnatural and ugly targeting of journalists,” the father-of-two said.
Since the incident Palestinian journalists have launched a campaign, with protests in several cities in the West Bank.
In Bethlehem Sunday, border police dispersed a sit-in by journalists at the checkpoint north of the city, an AFP journalist said.
Demonstrators wore eye patches and held signs aloft.
Tear gas cannisters were fired by the border police, the journalist said.
Seven people were lightly wounded, according to Palestinian health officials.
In the city of Tulkarem, about 250 journalists took part in a sit-in to show solidarity, according to journalists present.
A video and photos of Amarneh spread immediately after his injury, with journalists trying to carry him with blood flowing from his left eye.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate says 60 journalists have been hit by live ammunition this year, the majority in Gaza — an enclave where violent weekly protests along the border often lead to dozens of demonstrators being wounded.