Al-Jazeera, the Arab news TV channel that emerged back in 1996 as the only bastion of free press in an authoritarian Middle East, is now approaching an important crossroads in it’s life.
Al-Jazeera has been a government owned and funded station ever since it’s creation. Qatar spends roughly $100 million a year in funds for the TV station, and even though it generates other revenue from advertisements, sponsorships, program sales and subscriptions in Europe and North America, it still remains a losing enterprise.
So lately, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (Emir of Qatar), ordered the government to produce a privatization plan for the channel, which has pushed many people to wonder about who will buy it, and what the station will look like in the future.
The main concern is that whoever takes over control of the channel could change the editorial policy and bring to an end the freedom of press that is enjoyed in it’s newsroom today.
I think this is very important and critical. Al-Jazeera launched a revolution in the Arab media market, uncovering the facts and telling the news from all sides of the story, breaking out of the mold of state controlled media in the Arab world.
It was an eye opener for a lot of people and for it to be stripped of it’s freedom is such a great loss.
Al-Jazeera has plans to launch an English language news channel this year, which I think is a great and very necessary project to show the world a side of the news that they don’t usually see.
I truly hope that the future is a very bright one for the channel and that it goes from success to even greater success.