English service next for booming Al-Jazeera

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera has strengthened its role as the West’s window into the Middle East, as interest in access to its war footage has increased among both broadcasters and individuals.

According to Yosri Fouda, head of Al-Jazeera’s London bureau, it is set to capitalise on this interest by launching an English-language channel by the end of the year or, depending on the impact and duration of the war in Iraq, by early next year.

Al-Jazeera recently launched an English-language website.

It has also expanded its European catchment area by signing up to a satellite in France, and claims to have added four million subscribers in Europe during the past week.

Al-Jazeera, whose rolling news service is available in the UK on Sky Digital, has eight journalists in Iraq: three in Baghdad, one roving in the north, one in Mosul, one in Basra and two embedded with coalition forces.

Established in 1996, the broadcaster’s popularity and notoriety in the West came to the fore during the war in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

At that time, it broadcast taped speeches of Osama bin Laden and was accused of being a puppet of the Al-Qaida leader.

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