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Al-Jazeera to launch English channel on Nov 15

The Qatar-based network will employ 250 journalists and will have four principal bureaus including London and Washington.

india Updated: Nov 13, 2006 13:31 IST

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network will launch its long-awaited English-language channel on Wednesday.

Al-Jazeera International has approached reputed journalists such as Sir David Frost, Rageh Omar and the BBC newsreader Darren Jordon for the new channel with the objective of becoming a respected and impartial provider of news, watched presently in over five million homes.

It will employ 250 journalists of 47 nationalities.

"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," Nigel Parsons, the managing director, said.

Darren Jordon the news anchor based in Doha, said that it would be exciting to work with people from a range of cultures, which could be interpreted as a veiled criticism of the BBC, once described as "hideously white" by Greg Dyke, its former Director-General.

The new channel was expected to go on air a year ago, but now there are plans for it to run a round-the-clock service from four principal bureaus, in Kuala Lumpur, Doha, London and Washington.

It will also have to overcome the reputation of its ten-year-old Arabic sister network, best known for broadcasting tapes from al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and which has had bureaus in Kabul and Baghdad targeted in military action since September 11.

Parsons, a Briton, has helped to put together a style guide, which is intended to emphasise studied neutrality.

Like the BBC, the station 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.

Although the Emir of Qatar owns the Al-Jazeera network, which will include sports channels and a documentary channel next year, there is no evidence of overt political interference.

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

The channel idea has already won acceptance in Europe, where it will be available in more than 40 million homes.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will be one of Sir David Frost’s first guests on the Al-Jazeera sofa.

The channel is yet to make inroads in the United States.

First Published: Nov 13, 2006 13:21 IST