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
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
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
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
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
2010-2011: Coverage of the Arab Spring boosts
its status in the English-speaking world, winning
a public endorsement from Hillary Clinton and a
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.