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Al Jazeera channel aims for ‘significant revenue’

Al Jazeera International, the English language news channel to be launched from Qatar early next year, wants to break even within five years.

Al Jazeera International, the English language news channel to be launched from Qatar early next year, wants to break even within five years.

But Nigel Parsons, managing director at the channel, admitted that while the station had secured advertising from day one, it could take many more years to reach the black.

He said: “We are looking to create a significant revenue stream and we’d love to break even in between years three and five but I’d accept that news channels within a network scenario are loss leaders,” he told Campaign.

“We are hoping to be self-sufficient, but I’d like to stress that it’s not open-ended funding and we’re not getting the type of funding that our potential competitors get. We are being quite creative in the spending — we are not awash with petro-dollars,” he added.

Al Jazeera International claims it will be editorially independent of its Arabic sister station and will be headquarted at a newly-built news centre at the Al Jazeera TV complex in Doha.

There will be broadcast centres in Washington DC, London and Kula Lumpur.

Due to hit the air in the spring of next year, the station has signed up a host of famous names, including veteran British journalist Sir David Frost, former CNN presenters Riz Khan and Veronica Pedrosa and Sky News anchor David Foster.

Parsons said: “So I’m far more focused on the product than worrying — we have got advertising from day one — but I’m far more focused on getting the product right than the advertising sales drive.”

Despite open hostility from the Bush administration to Al Jazeera — reports from the UK last week suggested the US had even contemplated bombing the station’s headquarters — Parsons said that it has secured “verbal” deals for it to be aired in America and agreements for Europe, Asia and South America have also been reached.

But in a side swipe at US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s attacks on the stations, Parsons said: “I don’t think Donald Rumsfeld is into global outreach — he’s one of the diehard unilateralists. He has been known to spread complete misinformation.”

On the advertising boycott by Saudi Arabian companies towards Al Jazeera as a result of KSA-Qatar tensions, he said: “I can safely say that, as from this moment, we have not signed up any Saudi companies and I don’t think we will actually go looking there either.”

Asked if he thought the Al Jazeera name would inhibit some advertisers from using the station, Parsons replied: “For sure, some people will steer away but once it’s up on air people can understand us and see us and it will change perceptions. The brand of Al Jazeera is actually a fantastic brand. We don’t have to create brand awareness, people are aware of the brand.”

An announcement on the channel’s launch date is expected at the end of the year.

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