Al Jazeera stands firm

Continued criticism over its editorial stance and the recent sackings of staff on its English web site will not deter the Qatar-based news channel from continuing, what it claims is the truer news path.

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By  John Irish Published  January 15, 2004

The Qatar-based news provider Al Jazeera is not ready to give up its mantle as one of the most controversial global satellite channels. Jihad Ali Ballout, manager of communications and media relations for Al Jazeera was adamant that despite the channel being “a little short of profitable”, it would persist with its current editorial stance, including showing video tapes of Osama bin Laden, should the network still receive them. “Al Jazeera has made it clear. We do our job according to a very clear editorial policy of not shying away from issues that might hurt or please somebody,” he said. Ballout was speaking on the sidelines of the Gulf Marketing Forum, recently held in Qatar. Although he would not give any firm figures on the channel’s financial status, he indicated that the decision by the owners to turn Al Jazeera into a privately held company and invite private investment would lead to a financial statement being released to the public in the coming months. In early January, Al Jazeera helped launch a new children’s channel that will work semi-autonomously from the main network. The organisation is also gearing up to create a new documentary channel and English language news channel within the first six months of 2004. One explanation for what looks like an aggressive launch schedule could be its poor relationship with advertisers. “Advertisers are well versed in business matters and they know where their dollar will be most spent. However, in the Middle East, the decision as to where to spend your ad dollar is in function of politics rather than business and economics,” he added. On the emergence of Al Arabiya as a potential threat, he claimed that Saudi Arabian investment in the channel inevitably helped its position with advertisers, although he dismissed the MBC-owned news network was on an equal footing.

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