A guide to net's significant moments

Al Jazeera aims to change U.S. minds

NOV. 1, 1996: Al Jazeera debuts, airing six hours

a day out of Doha, Qatar. The station is born after

the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-

Thani, buys a failed BBC Arabic television satellite

service that had been a joint venture with Saudi

Arabia’s Orbit Communications. Many journalists

from the BBC channel join the new network, and

are given free rein.

Al Jazeera becomes the first Arabic station to

have Israelis speaking Hebrew as on-air guests.

Its talkshow “The Opposite Direction” becomes

popular, sparking controversy over issues of

morality and religion. Millions tune in.

END OF 1997: Program day increases to 12

hours.

1998: During the U.S.-led four-day bombings in

Iraq known as Operation Desert Fox, Al Jazeera is

the only broadcaster with reporters on the ground.

Its exclusive clips become a hot item sold to Western

media, in what will become a familiar pattern.

JANUARY 1999: Al Jazeera becomes a 24-hour

broadcaster, tripling its workforce to about 500

employees, with bureaus as far-flung as Europe

and Russia in addition to its extensive Middle East

infrastructure. Its annual budget is estimated at

$25 million.

2000: Al Jazeera ranks as the top news

broadcaster in the Arab world. Its estimated nightly

audience is 35 million.

JANUARY 2001: The network launches a free

Arabic website. Its TV feed becomes available in

the U.K. for the first time, via Rupert Murdoch’s

BSkyB.

NOVEMBER 2001: After the World Trade

Center attacks, Al Jazeera gains the attention

of many in the West by airing videos made by

Osama bin Laden and other members of Al

Qaeda. Criticized by the Bush administration for

giving terrorists a voice, the network responds

that it’s been given the tapes because it has a

large Arab audience, and is operating just like the

New York Times when it printed messages from

the Unabomber.

Al Jazeera’s Kabul office is destroyed by a U.S.

missile. U.S. officials say the strike is a mistake.

2002: Viewership surpasses 45 million.

2003: Al Jazeera grows to 23 bureaus, 450

journalists and about 1,300 employees. During

the Iraq War, it captures the attention of viewers

looking for unsanitized news about the conflict.

A U.S. missile strikes Al Jazeera’s Baghdad bureau,

killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub. U.S. officials say the

strike is a mistake.

2006: The network launches Al Jazeera English,

based in Doha, London, Washington and Kuala

Lumpur. Staffers include Dave Marash, former

anchor of NBC’s “Nightline,” and British journo

David Frost.

2010-2011: Coverage of the Arab Spring boosts

its status in the English-speaking world, winning

a public endorsement from Hillary Clinton and a

Peabody Award.

AUGUST 2012: Aiming to lure an American

sports audience, Al Jazeera subsid beIN Sport

buys rights to U.S. soccer, as well as forking over

a reported $450 million for soccer rights to top

leagues in Italy, Spain, France and England.

JAN. 3, 2013: Al Jazeera buys Al Gore’s cable

network Content TV for a reported $500 million ,

gaining access to 41 million U.S. households.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more