Al-Jazeera's new English-language channel said yesterday its first week on air has won a positive response from television viewers worldwide, including in tough markets like the United States.
Al-Jazeera English launched newscasts last Wednesday to 80 million homes on cable and satellite TV, but the network also reaches people who can watch it streamed for free on its website, said Nigel Parsons, the managing director of the Doha, Qatar-based channel.
"We've had fantastic feedback from around the world," Parsons, speaking via a video feed from Doha, told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where the network operates a broadcast newsroom in the famous Petronas Twin Towers.
"We feel we have made a great start towards our purpose of providing a different perspective of the news," Parsons said.
The station, which competes with CNN and the BBC, is an offshoot of the 10-year-old Arabic-language Al-Jazeera, which has clashed repeatedly with Washington. US officials say its exclusive broadcasts of Osama bin Laden speeches show an anti-American bias.
Following its launch, Al-Jazeera English has been "getting flooded" with positive e-mails, even from countries such as the US and China, where its TV audience is supposed to be virtually nonexistent, Parsons said.
Al-Jazeera is "very keen to connect to the streets, to what is really concerning ordinary people, rather than just following the agendas that tend to be set by politicians," he added.
The English-language station's signal mainly reaches viewers in the Middle East and Europe. It aims to give a voice to developing countries, but its availability lags behind rivals such as BBC World, which reaches 270 million homes.
The channel, bankrolled by Qatar's royal family, had only one small satellite system and two online services in the US offering it when it launched last week.
"Of all the markets in the world, (the US) was probably the most hostile," Parsons said, stressing that audiences there have had "negative misconceptions" about Al-Jazeera.
"We never expected coast to coast" broadcasts in the US, Parsons said, noting that competition among TV stations in the US is crowded. "I think cable operators there understandably were cautious. They wanted to see what we had to offer before committing."
"America actually is very well hooked up on the Internet, and judging by the amount of e-mails we're getting, there are quite a lot of people watching us there," Parsons said.
The station, which runs broadcast newsrooms in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington, has hired more than 500 staffers, luring former journalists from American and British networks such as CNN, BBC and ABC News.
Source: China Daily