The closure of BBC’s Arabic T.V station paved the way for the birth of Aljazeera Satellite Channel, which became operational in November 1996. BBC’s Arabic station ceased its operations in Saudi Arabia due to unfavorable political economy. The Saudi Arabia government was keen on suppressing information on the numerous cases of human rights abuse including the execution of dissidents. Aljazeera functioned as an Arabic news channels and a current affairs satellite T.V in its early years.
The T.V network has expanded to become a media entity with various outlets including web-based news and special television channels in different languages and countries. Aljazeera’s mission is to deliver content, which will inform, inspire and entertain the world through creative and spirited people and provide expansive and comprehensive platforms for interaction.
The organization seeks to balance global media coverage to incorporate human diversity, expose and broadcast the plights of the voiceless and achieve outstanding results in its coverage. Aljazeera has remained faithful to its mission statement to date. For example, the decision to broadcast a live coverage of the war in Afghanistan put the T.V network in the global limelight. Aljazeera was the only media channel broadcasting a live coverage of the war in Afghanistan.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamada bin Kalifa, funded the creation of Aljazeera with a loan of about 137 million dollars. The loan helped to sustain Aljazeera’s operations in its infant phase. The ruling family in Qatar remains the chief source of funding for Aljazeera although there are other private investors in the Aljazeera media Network (Walt, 2013).
The huge funding available for Aljazeera has allowed the T.V network to rival the BBC, CNN and MSNBC in terms of established bureaus, correspondents and access to American households. Aljazeera is dependent on government subsidies considering that the T.V network has been unable to attract advertisements to generate enough revenue to sustain its operations.
Despite the evidence on the funding of Aljazeera by the ruling family of Qatar, the focus on broadcasting uncensored news demonstrates the extent of the T.V network’s editorial independence. Aljazeera’s approach in broadcasting has discredited the notion that the Qatar government influences the content the organization publishes or broadcasts. Aljazeera has often been on the frontline in criticizing poor leadership in the Persian Gulf nations, which is unexpected of a state-controlled media outlet (Ghosh, 2014).
The influence of the Middle East political economy on the independence and transparency of Aljazeera is minimal considering that the media entity has demonstrated its willingness to broadcast politically unpopular views on numerous occasions. For example, Aljazeera hosts in-call shows, which sometimes arouse political controversies in various Persian Gulf states.
Aljazeera’s low censorship index led to the nomination of the T.V network as one of the best sources of internet news alongside admired media entities such as the BBC and National Geographic (Byrne, 2003). The neutral approach in Aljazeera’s new coverage has attracted criticism from individuals and organizations, especially western media entities. Aljazeera critics have labeled the T.V network as a mouthpiece for radical organizations such as Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood (Tenenbaum, 2014).
A significant number of officials from the U.S and U.K have expressed concerns regarding the role of Aljazeera in promoting anti-western attitudes and views. Aljazeera’s neutrality in broadcasting global events is a demonstration of the desire to incorporate the diversity of people and regions in disseminating information. For example, presenting the state of affairs in Israel, airing Iranians’ views, broadcasting videos released by the Muslim Brotherhood and analyzing the U.S congress decisions is an illustration of unbiased media broadcasting.
Aljazeera does not only broadcast wars in different regions but also highlights the impacts of conflicts on people’s lives. Aljazeera’s approach gives its audience freedom of thoughts and room for debate, which is uncharacteristic of a state-controlled media. The organization won the Peabody Award for a documentary on the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
Aljazeera has a considerably huge audience in the Middle East considering that it is the largest Arabic News channel and broadcasts on some of the most hostile and unstable regions. The expansion of Aljazeera since 1996 is evident in the more than 30 bureaus the T.V network has established and the thousands of its correspondents in various parts of the world.
Aljazeera has succeeded in reaching people within and outside the Middle East (Enda & Guskin, 2013). The influence of Aljazeera outside the Middle East is evident in the remarks of American leaders such as Hilary Clinton who has often stated that the United States is losing the information war to entities such as Aljazeera.
Clinton’s remarks regarding Aljazeera’s success in changing the attitudes and thoughts of its audience is a demonstration of the scope of Aljazeera’s audience. For example, the broadcast of exclusive interviews and footages from Aljazeera in media outlets in the U.S and U.K has significantly increased the organization’s audience in Western countries. The use of multiple languages in broadcasting has given Aljazeera an edge over its rivals because the T.V network can interact with listeners from diverse backgrounds.
Byrne, C. (2003). Al-Jazeera wins anti-censorship award.
Enda, J., & Guskin, E. (2013). Aljazeera America’s biggest challenge: ‘getting people to show up’.
Tenenbaum, H. (2014). America’s Best News Channel Is Owned by Arabs.
Walt, V. (2013). All eyes on Qatar, Aljazeera’s money machine.