Al Jazeera steps up efforts to establish presence in US

WASHINGTON - Not content just being 'The Arab CNN', the Al Jazeera news network is taking steps toward becoming a major force on the American media scene.

Already claiming more than 135,000 subscribers in America, the Qatar-based network, which gained international notoriety for its post-September 11 coverage, has begun beefing up its Washington editorial staff, providing English subtitles for many of its programmes, and including English translations of network transcripts on its website. Within the next year or so, producers hope to debut English-language shows tailored specifically to American audiences.

The long-term goal, according to Al Jazeera executives, is to carve a niche into the American media landscape by providing a point of view that often goes unrepresented.

"The whole idea of English-language programming came to us after 9/11, when we were fielding an average of 60 calls a day from American viewers wanting to know what Al Jazeera was saying," explained producer Imad Musa. "We have the same journalistic standards as anyone, but we have different priorities, perhaps, and we can cover stories the American media can't always get."

Washington PR professionals representing Arab interests welcomed the news of an American Al Jazeera presence. "It is a positive for us because our point of view will have a forum and a way to reach American audiences," said Alaa Boymi, director of Arabic affairs at the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

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