Al Jazeera looks set to go public

THE CONTROVERSIAL satellite news channel Al Jazeera, financed by the state of Qatar, is to go public, according to its official spokesperson. However, the form of privatisation has yet to be decided by the company.

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By  Massoud A. Derhally Published  February 6, 2005

THE CONTROVERSIAL satellite news channel Al Jazeera, financed by the state of Qatar, is to go public, according to its official spokesperson. However, the form of privatisation has yet to be decided by the company. The emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, raised the issue of privatising Al Jazeera, whose budget is covered by the Qatari authorities and partly by advertising revenues, in late 2003, but a firm resolution has yet to be made. “There is a decision in principle to look into the privatisation issue,” Jihad Ballout, Al Jazeera’s official spokesperson told Arabian Business. The station’s reshuffled board has now been tasked with drawing up a report within the next year on the best way to transform the station into a company with private participation. “In fact, an international firm of consultants has been commissioned to conduct a feasibility study into how best to go about doing just that, without compromising our independent editorial policy," said Ballout. “The final draft study is not ready yet because it is a big job and not an easy job. Once we receive the final report the board of directors will look into it and assess it accordingly. “There will be restrictions in the shares offer and we don’t know [yet] if it will be on offer locally, regionally or internationally,” he added. The company denied that the decision was taken due to pressure on Doha concerning Al Jazeera, which the United States accuses of inciting violence. Al Jazeera is banned from reporting in Iraq. Meanwhile, the company stated that the privatisation would not affect its editorial policies. Since its launch in 1996 “Al-Jazeera has come under pressure without that influencing its editorial line”, Ballout concluded. Furthermore, Al Jazeera is set to launch an English-language channel, Al Jazeera International, later this year. It already has a sports channel and plans to start up a documentary channel and another for children at some point during 2005. Considered the most watched and trusted television station in the Arab world, Al Jazeera ranked as the fifth most influential global brand in an annual survey by Brandchannel.com.

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