Media has stretched across borders for decades, with many media companies in the Middle East serving a demographic that goes beyond their own territories. The key people driving this have done so off the back of the ideological power of pan-Arabism.

Mohamed Hassanein Heikal

The son of wealthy wheat merchants in Egypt’s Nile Delta region, Heikal (pictured above, on left) started his career at the British-controlled Egyptian Gazette. He worked closely with Marxist writers such as George Orwell and Lawrence Durrell before becoming Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ghostwriter and de facto press officer. Following Nasser’s death, Heikal continued to represent the ideology of pan-Arabism as the editor of the Al-Ahram newspaper from 1957-70 and Egypt’s minister of information from 1970-74.

Salah Kamel

Salah Kamel, a Saudi businessman and investor, played a major role in the establishment of three of the largest media groups in Middle East history. Kamel advised and supported the setting up of MBC Group, Rotana Group and ART Network. His role in the establishment of MBC and ART created the first pan-Arab paid-for television channels in the region. ART became the only sports channels that broadcasted the Fifa World Cup in the Middle East.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal

Mostly known for his philanthropy and control of Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Holding, Bin Talal is also the majority owner of the largest pan-Arab media company Rotana Group. Bin Talal’s father was the kingdom’s finance minister in the early 1960s, while his mother was the daughter of Lebanon’s first prime minister. Under his ownership, Rotana Group became the largest owner of Arab media content in the region.  

Sheikh Waleed al-Ibrahim

After finishing university, Al-Ibrahim founded ARA Productions and Television Studios. This idea was later developed into the Middle East Broadcasting Company, which is widely known as MBC. MBC, which was founded in London in 1991, has since become the biggest group of television channels in the region’s history, boasting 11 channels.