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Al Jazeera (Arabic: الجزيرة‎ al-ǧazīrah IPA: [ˌʔæl.dʒæˈziːrɐ], literally, "The Island") is an international news network headquartered in Doha, Qatar. Initially launched as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel with the same name, Al Jazeera has since expanded into a network with several outlets, including the Internet and specialty TV channels in multiple languages. Al Jazeera is accessible in several world regions and is owned by Qatar Media Corporation.

The original Al Jazeera channel's willingness to broadcast dissenting views, including on call-in shows, created controversies in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. The station gained worldwide attention following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when it was the only channel to cover the war in Afghanistan live from its office there.

Organization

The original Al Jazeera channel was started in 1996 by an emiri decree with a loan of 500 million Qatari riyals (US$137 million) from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa.[1][2] By its funding through loans or grants rather than direct government subsidies, the channel claims to maintain independent editorial policy.[3][4] The channel began broadcasting in late 1996, with many staff joining from the BBC World Service's Saudi-co-owned Arabic language TV station, which had shut down in April 1996 after two years of operation because of censorship demands by the Saudi Arabian government.[5]

Following the initial US$137 million grant from the Emir of Qatar, Al Jazeera had aimed to become self-sufficient through advertising by 2001, but when this failed to occur, the Emir agreed to several consecutive loans[2] on a year-by-year basis (US$30 million in 2004,[6] according to Arnaud de Borchgrave). Other major sources of income include advertising, cable subscription fees, broadcasting deals with other companies, and sale of footage.[7] In 2000, advertising accounted for 40% of the station's revenue.[8]

The Al Jazeera logo is a decorative representation of the network's name written using Arabic calligraphy. It was selected by the station's founder, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, as the winning entry in a design competition.[9]
[edit] Staff

The Chairman of Al Jazeera is Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, a distant cousin of Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

Al Jazeera recently restructured its operations to form a Network that contains all their different channels. Wadah Khanfar, the managing director of the Arabic Channel was appointed as the Director General of the Al Jazeera Network. He also acts as the Managing Director of the Arabic channel. He is supported by Ahmed Sheikh, Editor-in-Chief, and Amen Jaballah.

The Editor-in-Chief of the Arabic website is Ahmed Sheikh. It has more than 100 editorial staff.

The Editor-in-Chief of the English-language site is Mohamed Nanabhay. He replaced Beat Witschi, who was caretaking the website after Russell Merryman, the previous Editor-in-Chief, moved to a new development role. He replaced Omar Bec who was caretaking the site after the departure of Managing Editor Alison Balharry. Previous incumbents include Joanne Tucker and Ahmed Sheikh.

Prominent on-air personalities include Faisal al-Qassem, host of the talk show The Opposite Direction, Ahmed Mansour, host of the show Unlimited (bi-la hudud) and Sami Haddad.

Yosri Fouda, producer and presenter of an investigative journalism program Top Secret announced his resignation from Al Jazeera in May 2009.

Reach

It is widely believed internationally that inhabitants of the Arab world are given limited information by their governments and media, and that what is conveyed is biased towards the governments' views.[10] Many people see Al Jazeera as a more trustworthy source of information than government and foreign channels. Some scholars and commentators use the notion of contextual objectivity,[11] which highlights the tension between objectivity and audience appeal, to describe the station's controversial yet popular news approach.[12] As a result, it is probably the most watched news channel in the Middle East.

Increasingly, Al Jazeera's exclusive interviews and other footage are being rebroadcast in American, British, and other western media outlets such as CNN and the BBC. In January 2003, the BBC announced that it had signed an agreement with Al Jazeera for sharing facilities and information, including news footage.[13] Al Jazeera is now considered by some to be a fairly mainstream media network, though more controversial than most. In the United States as of 2006, video footage from the network carried by other stations was largely limited to video segments of hostages.[citation needed]

Al Jazeera's availability (via satellite) throughout the Middle East changed the television landscape of the region. Prior to the arrival of Al Jazeera, many Middle Eastern citizens were unable to watch TV channels other than state-controlled national TV stations. Al Jazeera introduced a level of freedom of speech on TV that was previously unheard of in many of these countries. Al Jazeera presented controversial views regarding the governments of many Persian Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar; it also presented controversial views about Syria's relationship with Lebanon, and the Egyptian judiciary. Critics accused Al Jazeera of sensationalism in order to increase its audience share. Al Jazeera's broadcasts have sometimes resulted in drastic action: for example, when, on 27 January 1999, critics of the Algerian government appeared on the channel's live program El-Itidjah el-Mouakass ("The Opposite Direction"), the Algerian government cut the electricity supply to large parts of the capital Algiers (and allegedly also to large parts of the country), to prevent the program from being seen.[10][11][14] At that time, Al Jazeera was not yet generally known in the Western world, but where it was known, opinion was often favourable[15] and Al Jazeera claimed to be the only politically independent television station in the Middle East. However, it was not until late 2001 that Al Jazeera achieved worldwide recognition, when it broadcast video statements by al-Qaeda leaders.[16]

Some observers have argued that Al Jazeera has formidable authority as an opinion-maker. Noah Bonsey and Jeb Koogler of the Columbia Journalism Review write that Al Jazeera has a strong influence on local politics in the region, influencing public opinion on even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:[17]

The channel’s tremendous popularity has also, for better or worse, made it a shaper of public opinion. Its coverage often determines what becomes a story and what does not, as well as how Arab viewers think about issues. Whether in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, or Syria, the stories highlighted and the criticisms aired by guests on Al Jazeera’s news programs have often significantly affected the course of events in the region.

In Palestine, the station’s influence is particularly strong. Recent polling indicates that in the West Bank and Gaza, Al Jazeera is the primary news source for an astounding 53.4 percent of Palestinian viewers. The second and third most watched channels, Palestine TV and Al Arabiya, poll a distant 12.8 percent and 10 percent, respectively. The result of Al Jazeera’s market dominance is that it has itself become a mover and shaker in Palestinian politics, helping to craft public perceptions and influence the debate. This has obvious implications for the peace process: how Al Jazeera covers the deliberations and the outcome of any negotiated agreement with Israel will fundamentally shape how it is viewed—and, more importantly, whether it is accepted—by the Palestinian public.

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