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08DOHA792 2008-11-06 14:26:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Doha
Cable title:  

AL JAZEERA: MORE THAN JUST A NEWS CHANNEL

Tags:   PREL KPAO PGOV QA 
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1. (SBU) For all of the competition that has sprung up from
channels like Al Arabiyah, Al Hurra, BBC Arabic and others,
Al Jazeera is still considered the undisputed king of Arabic
broadcast media in most of the Arab world. For that reason,
Al Jazeera is a vital component to the USG's strategy in
communicating with the Arab world.



2. (SBU) While Al Jazeera's Arabic news channel is a
well-known brand worldwide, most outside the region are not
aware of the many other pieces of the Al Jazeera "empire,"
many of which also reach wide audiences. The following are
brief descriptions of the other parts of the Al Jazeera
Network.



3. (SBU) Television

-- Al Jazeera English: Staffed primarily by Brits, the
channel,s broadcasts seem to be a mix between a documentary
channel and a straightforward 24-hour news station. Unlike
Al Jazeera Arabic, the English side has yet to find its
niche. AJ Director General Wadah Khanfar is reportedly not
pleased with its haphazard selection of news stories and
wants it to focus on being a news channel that emphasizes the
voices of the "global south." The channel claims a large
viewership in Africa and South Asia, but has no data to back
up the claim. Al Jazeera English saw an exodus of
disgruntled staff during 2008, and has made little progress
in attaining what it describes as its biggest goal: entry
into the U.S. market.

-- Al Jazeera Mubasher: Sort of an Arabic C-Span, this
channel runs live and taped coverage of public events,
including conferences and parliamentary sessions from the
region. For example, it regularly airs sessions organized by
regional think tanks like the Brookings Doha Center.

-- Al Jazeera Sports: This is comprised of two channels,
which are reportedly Al Jazeera,s money makers, since it
requires subscriptions and attracts advertizing dollars.

-- Al Jazeera Documentary: This channel runs popular
documentaries purchased from European and U.S. sources such
as the History Channel and National Geographic, with Arabic
voice-overs produced by Al Jazeera. It has also begun
producing original documentaries for itself and other
networks.

-- Al Jazeera Children,s: This channel is really an arm of
the Qatar Foundation that uses the Al Jazeera brand and its
broadcasting equipment to reach its audience. Al Jazeera has
absolutely no editorial control, and it is the only part of
the Al Jazeera Network not co-located on the Qatar
Broadcasting compound. It is the only "edutainment" channel
in the Middle East, and hews very closely to Sheikha Mozah,s

DOHA 00000792 002 OF 002


desire to increase quality educational options available to
Arabs.

-- Al Jazeera Subsidiaries: Al Jazeera's Director General
has said that he intends to launch subsidiaries in regional
languages such as Turkish and Urdu, although no apparent
steps have so far been taken in this regard. Al Jazeera's
Chairman of the Board, Shaykh Hamad bin Thamer, was quoted in
local media in early November as stating that "no new
channels" were in the works.



4. (SBU) Internet/Mobile Phone

-- Al Jazeera.Net: Al Jazeera's Arabic website director
claims that most of its visitors come from the United States,
indicating that the site is not the first choice for news in
the region. As Internet penetration grows in the region,
however, its influence, particularly among young people, can
be expected to grow.

-- Al Jazeera Mobile: A recent poll in Qatar revealed that
a staggering 90 percent of respondents received news alerts
on their mobile phones, and most of these users were relying
on Al Jazeera Mobile, a service that is also available around
the region.



5. (SBU) Print Media

-- Al Jazeera Newspaper: Plans have been underway for a
regional newspaper for several years, and a chief editor
remains on salary within Al Jazeera, but this project appears
to be mothballed for the moment.
LeBaron