Al-Jazeera English Hits Airwaves

Al-Jazeera English channel will sit up the news agenda," anchors Shiulie Ghosh and Sami Zeidan said launching the long-awaited channel's broadcasting.

Al-Jazeera English Hits Airwaves

Ten years after changing the face of Arab television reporting by breaking taboos, the giant Al-Jazeera network launched on Wednesday, November 15, an English-speaking channel with a heavyweight cast of presenters and the ambition to compete with Western broadcasting giants.

Broadcasting from the ultra-sophisticated Doha studios, it began with a news bulletin featuring reports from Gaza, Sudan's Darfur region, Tehran, China and Brazil.

Al-Jazeera English will initially have 12 hours of live programming, which it plans to boost to 24 hours on January 1.

It broadcasts from studios in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC, with offices in 20 other countries and employs some 800 people of 55 different nationalities.

At least two Israeli journalists are among staff covering Israel.

Among its prominent starts is BBC veteran Sir David Frost, the only person to have interviewed the last seven US presidents and the last six British prime ministers.

Al-Jazeera English, only renamed on Tuesday from Al-Jazeera International, hopes to reach a potential audience of 80 million viewers by cable and satellite, mostly in Asia, Africa and Europe.

But the channel said on Tuesday it would not be available on cable in the United States for at least a year as "there is no free space for us on the US cable network."

Arabic television Al-Jazeera, which began broadcasting in 1996 with staff largely drawn from the BBC's short-lived Arabic television, gained world fame through its exclusive reporting of the US military intervention in Afghanistan in late 2001.

Known for its forthright style, frank journalism, quality programs, independence and willingness to discuss taboo issues, Al-Jazeera is the most-watched channel in the Arab world.

Alternative View

The new offshoot of the Doha-based news network comes to give a new perspective of news to English speakers around the world who are looking for an alternative to CNN and the BBC.

"Launching the English channel offers the chance to reach out to a new audience that is used to hearing the name of Al-Jazeera without being able to watch it or to understand its language," said network general director Wadah Khanfar.

"One of our goals is to reverse the flow of information to the south," he said, adding that the Middle East and developing nations have not had a voice of their own.

The channel is being beamed to an Asian region which is booming and hungry for news, industry experts say.

Kuala Lumpur is the regional headquarters for the international broadcaster's Asian operations, a market of three billion people of which about one-third are Muslims.

"Asia is booming. And the interest for news is strong," said Allan Williams, managing editor with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), stressing that the time was ripe for Al-Jazeera to launch in the region.

"Asia is a huge market. India, Pakistan, China and the 10 ASEAN countries offer huge market potential for Al-Jazeera."

Al-Jazeera English's managing director Nigel Parsons, a Briton who formerly worked for the BBC, said he was confident of their success in Asia.

"Yes, we want to provide an alternate view. We want to bring a different perspective. Kuala Lumpur is an important broadcast center," he said.

"We want to look at the world from an Asian perspective."

Editorial Policy

"One of our goals is to reverse the flow of information to the south," Khanfar said.

The new baby of Al-Jazeera network is aware of the sensitivities of some controversial words for the western audience.

"Al-Jazeera English's audience will be different from ours," the mother channel's editor-in-chief, Ahmed al-Sheikh, said earlier this month.

"But we will coordinate our editorial policy through daily meetings in order to agree on, among others, controversial terms such as 'martyrs', 'terrorism' and 'resistance' in the coverage of regional conflicts," he said.

The giant channel is attempting to immediately establish its credentials as a balanced network.

Al-Jazeera English showed a snippet of an interview with Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal and said it would later air an interview with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

The Arab news empire is well known for angering leaders in both the West and the Arab world.

Washington has accused Al-Jazeera of being a mouthpiece for extremists, notably in Iraq, where the channel has been banned from reporting since 2004.

Britain's Daily Mirror has cited on November 22 a Downing Street memo marked "Top Secret" saying that US President George W. Bush planned to bomb the pan-Arab satellite channel in 2004, but he was talked out of the idea by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16