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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 12:41 GMT
Al-Jazeera English hits airwaves
Doha, Qatar newsroom of al-Jazeera International
Al-Jazeera in English is launching after months of delays
The Arabic television news channel al-Jazeera has launched its new English-language station.

Al-Jazeera English began broadcasting from the station's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, at 1500 (1200 GMT).

A screen graphic with a clock ticking down the minutes gave way to a photo montage of the biggest news stories of recent years, including 9/11.

Al-Jazeera in Arabic is known for its forthright style, frank journalism and willingness to discuss taboo issues.

This has made it a thorn in the side of governments from Washington to Riyadh, says the BBC's Ian Pannell in Cairo.

We will be getting our reaction, first and foremost, from the Middle East
Felicity Barr, presenter

After the opening credits, presenters Shiulie Ghosh and Sami Zeidan ushered in the new channel, saying it would be "setting the news agenda".

"It's November 15th, a new era in television news."

The channel then went to images of correspondents in various locations including Gaza then Sudan's Darfur region, followed by Iran and Zimbabwe.

As it went on air, the channel had to contend with a breaking news story on a tsunami expected to hit Russia and northern Japan.

'Middle Eastern feel'

Al-Jazeera English will initially broadcast for 12 hours a day before becoming a 24-hour news operation from 1 January.

It will broadcast from studios in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC, in addition to 20 other countries.

It will be available to 80 million homes - double its target audience - in Europe, Africa and south-east Asia.

Originally due to launch in 2005, the station employs some 800 people from 55 countries and hopes to bring a different perspective to international events.

"It is definitely an international channel, but it's certainly going to have a Middle Eastern feel about it," one of the channel's presenters, Felicity Barr, told the BBC.

"The instant reaction for, say, a Western organisation, is to get analysis from the United States or from the UK," she explained.

"We will be getting our reaction, first and foremost, from the Middle East."

The channel is hoping to revolutionise English-language television in the same way it revolutionised Arabic-language television 10 years ago.

But our correspondent says this will be a much harder task.

Established rivals

Al-Jazeera's achievement in the Middle East was to break a monopoly on information held by governments and state broadcasters, our correspondent says.

'The Editors' logo
Al-Jazeera English looks like it will be a serious competitor...
Richard Porter
Head of news, BBC World

But the international market is already much more developed with well established rivals in the BBC and CNN.

"One of our goals is to reverse the flow of information to the south," Wadah Khanfar, director general of the al-Jazeera Group explained to Reuters news agency.

While the hope is that a major English-language channel operating from the Middle East will give the Arab world a global voice, our correspondent says the launch will simply be a moment of pride.

But, he adds, the question for some in the region is whether the new channel will be as outspoken as its sister station and whether it will adopt a similar editorial stance.

Watch a clip from Al-Jazeera TV

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Al-Jazeera's popularity and impact
01 Nov 06 |  Middle East
Al-Jazeera English TV date set
01 Nov 06 |  Middle East
Bush al-Jazeera 'plot' dismissed
22 Nov 05 |  UK Politics
Watchdog blasts al-Jazeera bans
28 Jan 05 |  Europe
Rumsfeld blasts Arab TV stations
26 Nov 03 |  Middle East

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