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Al Jazeera Speeds Up Its Global Rollout

Arab news group plans branded offshoots in U.K., France

ROME – After disembarking in the U.S., Qatar-based Al Jazeera is continuing to expand globally with the upcoming launch of a U.K.-branded news channel and advanced plans for a French-language news arm.

The network, which acquired Al Gore’s Current TV cabler in January to use its distribution base for Al Jazeera America, will launch Al Jazeera U.K. in a five-hour primetime window as a cut in on its Al Jazeera English network.

AJE, headed by former ITN news topper Al Anstey, bowed in 2006. It churns out news in a 24-hour cycle that targets English-speaking viewers around the world. Its estimated global reach is around 260 million households.

Launching a U.K.-branded channel will boost the British news angle at AJE, which has production hubs in Qatar, London, Washington, D.C., and Kuala Lumpur.

Blighty’s Royal Television Society named AJE news channel of the year in 2011, beating BBC News and Sky News.

Al Jazeera’s French-language channel, now in an advanced stage, will be “aimed at building bridges with other cultures and peoples,” network topper Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani told Agence France Press.

France has the largest immigrant population in continental Europe, largely comprising first and second generation Arabs and Africans.

While AJE competes as an alternative to CNN Intl. and BBC World, Al Jazeera’s French operation would go against, among other local outlets, Paris-based France 24, which covers the news from a Gallic perspective and airs in French, English and Arabic.

Al Thani has also announced the upcoming launch of an Al Jazeera Turkish channel, which follows the opening of Sarajevo-based Al Jazeera Balkans in 2011.

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