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Al-Jazeera spreads the word

World Brief

HOLLYWOOD — Arab news satcaster Al-Jazeera will open bureaus in Brazil and Venezuela by the summer.

“We have been looking for ways to enhance our presence in Latin America,” says spokesman Jihad Ballout. “Both countries have strong Arab populations, and Venezuela, after all, is an oil producer and a member of OPEC.”

The 24-hour news net has bureaus in New York, London and 22 other cities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Launched in 1996, the controversial Qatar-based net has grown in prominence during the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Its offices are still shut down in the latter.

Al-Jazeera recently launched a sports channel and plans to bow a kids channel, a documentary channel and an English-language news service later this year.

It had an estimated audience of 35 million before the Iraq war. It was recently voted the world’s fifth most recognizable brand by Brandchannel.com, behind Apple, Google, Ikea and Starbucks.

Net is still seriously considering privatization, according to Ballout (Daily Variety, Jan. 2). The new board approved in January will deliver plans to lure bids from private companies by the end of the year.

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