Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Al-Jazeera English launch

From The Australian, November 14, 2006, by The Times [emphasis added]...

LONDON: Al-Jazeera... will launch its ... English-language channel tomorrow in the hope of tipping the balance of the international news agenda [no prizes for guessing in which direction they hope to "tip the balance"].

Based in Qatar and funded by the country's Emir, al-Jazeera International has poached journalists such as David Frost, Rageh Omar and BBC newsreader Darren Jordon.

Its goal is to become a respected and impartial provider of news and to act as an alternative to the US and European media. It will employ 250 journalists of 47 nationalities.
Managing director Nigel Parsons promised a different sort of news agenda. "When our rivals covered the verdict of the Saddam trial, they went back to London and Washington for the reaction of Middle East experts. Our experts are Arabs in the Middle East," he said.

Jordon, who will be a news anchor based in Doha, said it was exciting to work with people from a range of cultures. His former employer, the BBC, was once described as "hideously white" by its former director-general Greg Dyke.

The channel was expected to be on the air a year ago, but has been dogged by repeated delays. It will be one of the few channels to broadcast in high definition and will run an around-the-clock news service from four main bureaus, in Kuala Lumpur, Doha, London and Washington.
But it will battle to overcome the reputation of its 10-year-old Arabic sister network, best known for broadcasting recorded tapes from al-Qa'ida and Osama bin Laden.

The Arab network has had bureaus in Kabul and Baghdad attacked in military action since September 11.

Like the BBC, it intends to be sparing in its use of the word terrorism. The channel also promises to be circumspect about transmitting any tapes purporting to be from bin Laden and about use of the term "suicide bomber".

....The Arabic and English operations will share bureaus, video and staff, creating an opportunity for cultural crossover between the two stations.

The channel has quickly won acceptance in Europe, where it will be available in more than 40 million homes. It is thought British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be one of Frost's first guests on the al-Jazeera sofa.

However, despite attempts to cultivate the White House, Congress and US broadcasters, the channel is struggling to get mass distribution in the US.

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