Al-Jazeera to launch English website

By : |December 27, 2002 0

NEW YORK: Al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite television channel known to broadcast statements from Osama bin Laden, will reach out to the West starting in February with an English-language website. “It will be original news in English tailored to a Western audience. We are very conscious of our pole position in world media terms at the moment,” Joanne Tucker, managing editor of al-Jazeera’s English-language website, said on Friday.

Al-Jazeera — based in the tiny Gulf Arab state of Qatar — began broadcasting in 1996, bringing scrutiny to governments in the Middle East where many of the region’s news outlets are under some form of official control. It started an Arabic website, http:/, in January 2001 that offers news, analysis, video clips and programming from the channel. Some 39 percent of the Arabic site’s visitors come from North America and Europe, according to the website.

The English site is set to be the first leg in the network’s English-language plans that ultimately could include an English-language television channel, Tucker said. Al-Jazeera is already offering English subtitles on two talk shows about religion and politics. The channel is seen in the United States by about 135,000 subscribers via the DISH satellite network.

Plans for an English-language service were in place even before the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Tucker said. “It just took a while to materialize and to become concrete, and we basically want to reach the global audience we know from feedback that exist and that seem to be thirsty and demanding an insider, independent perspective on this part of the world,” Tucker said in a phone interview from Qatar.

Tucker said Al-Jazeera hoped to offer English voice-overs of Arabic news bulletins on the TV channel by the middle of next year and launch an English-language channel by the end of the year or early 2004. “We do realize this isn’t necessarily a short-term or medium-term money-making operation. It’s much more about reaching a huge niche audience we have decided and realized needs to be reached,” Tucker said.

© Reuters

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