Al-Jazeera promises high-def U.S. distrib’n

Web plans to be available to 3 mil U.S. households

Al-Jazeera Intl., the English-language version of the Qatar-based Arab satcaster, is poised to sign a deal for U.S. distribution.

Newsie’s managing director, Nigel Parsons, told reporters in London that the much-hyped web, whose launch has been delayed due to technical glitches, would be available in up to 3 million U.S. households when it bows later this year.

But he still couldn’t give a start date or disclose the name of the U.S. platform, saying only: “We will be available on an HD platform in the U.S. from day one via a mix of cable and other forms of distribution.”

Parsons predicted Al-Jazeera Intl.’s global reach would be more than 100 million households.

Distribution deals have been agreed in the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland, Australia and other countries, he said.

Parsons said the web could be on air by June, in time for the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany.

“The system that will allow us to produce and film in high-definition will be tested to destruction in May,” he added. “We will not be bounced into launching before we are ready. We’ve got to be good because we will be going on air under the full glare of publicity.”

Editorially, Parsons said Al-Jazeera Intl. would have a more muted approach to images of violence than the main Arab-language station. It comes under the jurisdiction of U.K. media regulator the Office of Communications.

“Al-Jazeera showed the ugly side of war when others were trying to sanitize it, and I firmly believe it’s our duty to show both sides. But the issue of graphic images is largely cultural,” said the topper.

Parsons, a news vet who last worked for Associated Press, accused other newsies of “a dereliction of duty” in providing auds with bland pictures of the Iraq war, usually shot by journalists embedded with the military.