Al Jazeera enters sporting fray

The controversial Qatari-based news channel is set to add a little spice to the regional sports broadcasting world after launching the Al Jazeera Sports channel.

  • E-Mail
By  John Irish Published  November 18, 2003

The Qatari-based Al Jazeera television network best known for offering the Arab World an alternative perspective on the news is moving into the world of sports broadcasting.

Having started up on Al Jazeera's 7th anniversary at the beginning of November, the channel will initially run for six hours per day between 6pm-midnight with a view to increasing that to 24-hour coverage sometime in the first quarter of 2004.

At present Middle East viewers can access Al Jazeera Sports through ArabSat although a decision on whether to encrypt the channel or leave it free to air is expected in the coming weeks.

Jihad Ballout, spokesperson for the network confirmed that the new channel had contracted exclusive rights for Spanish League football as the backbone of its operastions. However, the popularity of the Qatari-League, which possesses a number of high profile European soccer stars, will also get a showing alongside other popular sports in Qatar such as volleyball.

As to whether Al Jazeera plans to eventually broadcast the lucrative English Premier League, Ballout stressed that as of yet no official approach had been made.

"I'm sure they [Al Jazeera administration] are thinking strategically for the future," explained Ballout. "[We] have ART [who own the regional rights] as a partner across the world, so if it were to materialise I wouldn't be surprised.

"Having said that I have no knowledge of an official approach. They are happy with the Spanish league at the moment."

Part of the reasoning behind launching the channel at this time is to ensure that by the time Qatar comes to host the Asian Olympic Games in 2006, it will have established itself regionally. Currently, the Middle East possesses two encrypted Arabic language sports channels in the shape of the Saudi backed ART and the UAE-based Abu Dhabi Sports.

Whether it will be as controversial as its sister news channel remains to be seen, but an Al Jazeera English news channel as well as a cultural channel should follow soon.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code