Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on Wednesday the suspension of Future TV, his ailing mouthpiece whose employees had recently been on strike over unpaid wages.
“It is with a sad heart that I announce today the decision to suspend the work at Future TV and settle the rights of the workers,” Hariri’s office said in a statement.
He said the decision was motivated by “the same material reasons that led to the closing of Al-Mustaqbal newspaper” in January this year.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an employee told Al Arabiya English that the channel had been suffering from serious financial problems since 2009 and had been delaying dispensing employees’ salaries, paying part salaries in some cases and delaying salaries in other cases, for the past year and a half.
Future TV’s director general Ramzi Jbeily told AFP that the “transitional period” would be used to restructure and pay the channel’s debts.
The announcement will effect more than 300 employees, the majority of whom were not media staff, the employee told Al Arabiya English.
The employee claimed Future TV’s centrist stance had lost the channel its audience in polarized Lebanese society. According to the employee, this centrist stance served a purpose when Future TV was founded in 1993.
However, the organization began a new chapter in 2005 because of the Hariri unity government with the terrorist organization Hezbollah, which lost Future TV popularity among Sunni Muslims, said the employee. This was because the channel was not sufficiently critical of the anti-Future camp, and because the Future Movement itself had entered into a coalition government with Hezbollah.
In Lebanon’s current polarized state, for the Lebanese consumer, the channel was “like hospital food that is tasteless with no spices,” said the employee.
The channel set up by his father Rafiq al-Hariri in 1993 follows several other once-thriving Lebanon-based media outlets into bankruptcy.
Hariri said the decision was not a closure and but aimed at “preparing for a new phase in which it aspires to return in the coming months.”
The Saudi Oger firm, a once-mighty construction firm that was the basis of the Hariri business empire, collapsed in 2017, rendering thousands jobless.
The premier’s financial difficulties are mirrored on the political stage, where he has narrowly held on to his job but struggles to juggle pressure from his rivals.
Future TV’s demise temporarily leaves him without a strong media arm in a country where all major players own a paper or channel to promote their interests.
However, the employee was positive about Hariri’s continued media presence. “In the social media age Saad Hariri doesn’t need TV,” he said, adding that “If he has a statement and puts it on Twitter, every TV channel will take it, that will give him good coverage.”