Saturday, May 14, 2005

Arab news channel Al Jazeera announced Saturday that it plans to open an English-language channel called Al Jazeera International at the beginning of 2006. The project fits in with the robust growth and in-your-face style of the original channel, but faces significant challenges in the new markets.

Al Jazeera’s confrontational approach to news has earned it enemies in every government in the Middle East. Its independence has caused the Iranian government to close its Tehran bureau for covering ethnic riots near the border with Iraq.

Al Jazeera has also earned the enmity of Washington D.C., where the Bush administration regularly complains about their coverage. Al Jazeera offices were also hit by U.S. weapons in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq, although the U.S. military insists they were accidental targets.

The biggest issue for Al Jazeera is a lack of distribution. All major news services in North America, a prime market for the English language channel, struggle to gain and maintain distribution.

The new channel has named its management team:

Al Jazeera has been expanding in other markets as well. It opened a channel last month which covers news events without a presenter or commentary. It also have a sports channel and plans for a children’s channel.