AL JAZEERA TIMELINENov. 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.
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