ABC inks Al-Jazeera deal

CBS, Fox in similar discussions with Qatar TV network

CNN’s exclusive pact with Al-Jazeera is no longer so exclusive.

ABC News sealed a nonexclusive deal Thursday with the Qatar-based television network that will allow the news division to broadcast Al-Jazeera footage. In return, Al-Jazeera will be able to use footage from NewsOne, ABC News’ affiliate news feed. No money is changing hands in the deal, in which the two nets will also share resources in the field.

CBS News and Fox News are also in discussions with Al-Jazeera about making similar deals.

The ABC News deal was apparently in the works before Sunday, when Al-Jazeera, the only news service broadcasting from within Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, aired live shots of bombs striking the capital city of Kabul, as well as a recorded videotape of Osama bin Laden.

‘Fair use’ claims

Although Al-Jazeera had signed an exclusive deal with CNN, the other news orgs, including ABC News, aired Al-Jazeera’s footage anyway, claiming it fell under the “fair use” rule.

Al-Jazeera sent out a letter on Monday saying that neither it nor CNN would take legal action against any of the nets that used its footage Sunday, but that it would do so in the future.

It’s unclear how CNN can continue to claim that they have an exclusive deal with Al-Jazeera. A CNN spokeswoman said that the ABC deal does not affect the exclusive interviews CNN has with Al-Jazeera correspondents in Afghanistan. An ABC News spokesman said that ABC would also have access to Al-Jazeera correspondents.

Although they struck a formal affiliate relationship with Al-Jazeera in June, CNN has had an informal relationship with the Arab news net for years.

Happy to share

The ABC News spokesman said the net’s arrangement was nonexclusive since “we felt it was important so as not to block anybody else’s access to Al-Jazeera.”

Meanwhile, President Bush’s press conference Thursday was carried live by Al-Jazeera. The net’s Washington office has requested an interview with the president but was still awaiting a White House response Thursday evening.

Bush wasn’t asked directly about the propaganda battle brewing on the sidelines, or the unprecendented agreement by news nets not to air “raw” statements by bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

Bush did make reference to the Al Qaeda statements aired earlier this week, which prompted National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to initiate a conference call on Wednesday with news prexys and express her concern that the nets were being used as tools for propaganda.

In the press conference, Bush reiterated that the war on terrorism wouldn’t be a “Generation X” sort of conflict in which Americans will see TV images of cruise missiles exploding in the sky, as they did during the Persian Gulf War.

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