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Al-Jazeera plans English-lingo service

Dispatch: Middle East

LONDON — Controversial Arabic newscaster Al-Jazeera is to add four channels starting with an English-lingo news service, which general manager Adnan Sharif hopes to launch around the end of the year.

A documentary channel and channels for sports and kids, which are seen as more likely to generate cash, will follow in 2004.

Sharif replaced Mohammed Jassem al-Ali in May following allegations, strongly denied by Al-Jazeera, that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime had infiltrated the station.

Currently the news channel is losing money, not helped by Saudi-based advertisers’ ban on the channel. They generate about 60% of the region’s advertising.

Sharif says the ad position is changing slowly. “More commercials do not make us more successful with viewers, although it helps the business plan. Even though we are still suffering from the ad-ban, other large international companies can no longer ignore our success and are coming forward.”

Sharif adds that Al-Jazeera’s other income streams, mostly from output deals with broadcasters like Fox and CNN, are increasingly profitable.