The Media

At his office in Dallah Towerin Jeddah, where he installed a whole wall of TV screens so that he could personally watch and monitor Arab Radio and Television (ART) channels from his desk.

Saleh Kamel freely admitted that his love of the media generally took precedent over other areas of his successful business empire.

 “A passion for the media was instilled into me by my schoolteachers,” he said back in 1991, recalling his first ever publication Mura’h Al-Ba’athat  (The Scholarship Mirror), the schoolboy magazine he launched in his student days.

In 1969 he founded the Arab Media Production Company (Aramid) in Riyadh, which specialized in importing, marketing and producing media, including television series, recorded concerts, films, plays and childrens’ programmes from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and distributing them within KSA and other Gulf states.

Saleh Kamel penned hundreds of columns for Arab papers over the years. Most were ideas for reform in multiple fields: economics, administration and management as well as political and social reforms.

In 1985, he started the first private television service, MBC. As he commented:

“Most television channels in the region at that time were government owned and their content closely monitored.”

He made the strategic decision to operate from Cairo as the main hub for regional TV programming material of all kinds. His pioneering Egyptian-based satellite network, MBC, was the first to reach Arabic speakers in Europe. He was keen on linking these communities, through common cultural, lingual and social interests.

The service provided programmes that broke free from the regional tradition of state-run television productions. With MBC he aimed to provide diverse types of content, that were more impressive, attractive and interactive with contemporary issues. Meanwhile, his innovative ART channel provided, among other things, pay-to-view sports events from around the world, something that literally changed the face of the Arab Media industry.

Visiting London in 1991 he watched one of the flagship BBC television programmes, What the Papers Say and was greatly struck by the fresh approach. Finding the show amusing in the way it presented a somewhat ironic review of newspaper articles over the preceeding week, he contacted well known journalist and broadcaster Adel Darwish to ask if a similar format might be used to create a parallel show for his MBC.

By early 1992, Darwish was producing A’alm al Sahafa (The Papers’ World), which ran on MBC for many years, its style and presentation representing a first for Arabic viewers.

Saleh Kamel was also the prime mover in launching and supporting several newspapers, whether as a majority shareholder or a publisher. They ranged from the Okaz Group (1993) of books and newspapers, Iqra publishing, the Assir foundation (1998), through to The Arab Company for the Press which published, printed and distributed from Alexandria and Beirut. He also had stake in the United Journalists Company, which published the daily Al-Alam Al-Youm (The World Today) and the weekly Kol Al-Nas (Everyone). He became chairman of Makkah newspaper in 2012.

Today, from Canada to Australia, as well as in the Middle East, people enjoy multiple choice for media – TV channels, newspapers, magazines – in their mother tongue thanks to the pioneering work of Saleh Kamel.