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.

Lebanese erupt in anger on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

Updated 20 January 2020

Lebanese erupt in anger on social media over foreign minister’s Davos participation

  • The Lebanese reacted to Gebran Bassil's attending the WEF
  • "Today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we're witnessing,” a student told Arab News

DAVOS: Lebanese have erupted in anger after the country’s caretaker foreign minister was announced as a participant at the World Economic Forum conference in Davos.

Activists have started an online petition called “No to Gebran Bassil at WEF”

“It's a shame that the international community fails to see Gebran Bassil amongst the pool of failed politicians who have lead to the crisis Lebanon witnesses today,” Chermine Haidar, a Lebanese student at SOAS University in London, told Arab News.

“He has for years incited sectarian violence in Lebanon, and today he is turning a blind eye to the devastating violence against civilians we're witnessing,” she added.

Bassil, who has been one of the protesters’ main targets, is set to speak in a panel session called “The Return of Arab Unrest” along with Hussain Sajwani, chairman of Dubai-based developer Damac Properties, Rached Ghannouchi, speaker of the Tunisian assembly and the Dutch trade minister Sigrid Kaag.



The panel, moderated by CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble, will discuss the rise of popular protests across the Middle East and how they can “be translated into a practical roadmap for positive change,” according to the session description.

“What positive change will Gebran Bassil be talking about?” asked George Azzi on Twitter.

“How to ignore protesters and oppress them? 

“There is a revolution against him in Beirut and he is invited to speak about a ‘practical roadmap to avoid past pitfalls?’ This panel is shameful!” 

Another Lebanese expat, Catherine Warde, also reacted with disbelief at Bassil’s appearance.

“How can someone who is so hated by their own people go and speak at the World Economic Forum when the people that they should be representing are being shot and tear gassed because of orders they gave out?” she said.

The Lebanese protests erupted at the weekend into the worst violence since the demonstrations began in October. Hundreds of people were injured during clashes with riot police and the army.

The online petition, which has reached more than 5,000 signatures, says: “We the People urge the World Economic Forum to rethink Mr Bassil’s invite and listen to the People of Lebanon, listen to their voice, the voice of truth, the voice of justice.”

“He should not be present at a prestigious international forum such as Davos in our name. He should not be given a legitimate platform to cement his power and to speak on behalf of a nation that has rejected him and accuses him of flagrant corruption.”

One Lebanese twitter user, Rula El-Halabi, tweeted a poll that asked Lebanese citizens whether they agree with Bassil representing Lebanon at the forum.

Some 76 percent out of the 17,551 who responded voted “No.”

Another user, business executive Dr. Walid Mahmoud, Said: “Having Gebran Bassil as a speaker at the WEF in Davos does not honor the Lebanese people who have been uprising against the existing political system that led the country to its worst economic crisis ever and which Bassil represents as one of its most condemned figures!” (

A few, however, have defended the caretaker foreign minister on social media.

One user, Hyam Saliba, tweeted: “As a Lebanese citizen, I would like to say that Gebran Bassil is the most honorable politician in Lebanon and he truly represents me.

“He is one of a kind man that can change the world to make it a better place.