Al-Jazeera English seeks approval to broadcast
The English-language arm of the controversial channel Al-Jazeera is seeking permission to broadcast in Canada, and if it wins approval the station would also open a Canadian news bureau, the managing director of Al-Jazeera English said today.
Tony Burman said the all-news channel, based in Doha, Qatar, hopes to be up and running here by the fall. He credited the channel’s recent coverage of the Israeli-Gaza war, which included exclusive material from Gaza, with significantly raising its North American profile and fostering a demand for international news.
“That was an important breakthrough for us and a lot of people I think really took notice,” Burman, former editor-in-chief of the CBC, said of the Gaza coverage.
“We know that from our website, there’s (been) an incredible jump (in traffic). A lot of Americans – and Canadians, for that matter – are now aware of Al-Jazeera English when perhaps two months ago they weren’t.”
Al-Jazeera English is distinct from the Arabic channel that drew controversy for its news coverage in the days following 9-11.
Often referred to as the “CNN of the Arab world,” Al-Jazeera Arabic frequently obtained exclusive messages and videotaped statements from militants in Iraq and al-Qaida. It was also often demonized by the U.S. Bush administration for its critical coverage of the West, but Burman said those controversies would not – and should not – affect the English channel’s bid.
“There’s a debate about Al-Jazeera Arabic. I think the accusations directed to it are nonsense, but it’s a bit of a side issue,” said Burman, drawing an analogy to three British media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
“If you look at the Times of London, you don’t focus on Sky News or the Sun newspaper to assess whether or not you like the Times of London.”
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