Al Jazeera to launch English news network based in US

WASHINGTON - Controversial Arab satellite news station Al Jazeera, which is now banned indefinitely in Baghdad, has said it is to launch an English-language news network by the end of next year in the US.

The launch is being seen as a potentially unrivalled opportunity for anyone trying to reach Arab audiences in the US.

Available only by satellite, the network will be based in the US and function independently from its Middle East sister station. Hiring for the editorial positions is now under way in the US and overseas.

The Qatar-based news network has won global recognition as one of the few Middle East media operations neither owned nor controlled by any government. Nonetheless, Al Jazeera has a reputation in America as an anti-US voice in the region.

Communications director Jihad Ballout said those perceptions won't impact the English network's behavior or mission.

"Al Jazeera has a code of ethics that stipulate [our reporting] is always as balanced as it can be," Ballout said. "Our English-language service will [abide] by the same code."

The station had announced plans to offer English subtitles or translations on some programs. Ballout said the new venture replaces those plans.

"This is the only Arab news network written by and produced totally by Arabs," offered Rey Kerins, EVP of media relations with GCI. "That is one powerful force."

Kerins warned, however, that the network may have credibility issues to overcome in the US.

"At the end of the day, no one knows what they stand for," he said. "If they want to be seen as a serious player on a global scale, they will have to address that."

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