Al Jazeera looks to PR to turn around 'terror' image

LONDON - Middle Eastern news channel Al Jazeera has begun a search for a global PR agency as it bids to shrug off its 'terror TV' reputation and present itself as a balanced, authoritative media source.

The broadcaster, which plans to launch an English worldwide news and current affairs channel in November, wants to ensure talks with cable distributors "go smoothly" and do not suffer from "adverse pressure", particularly in the US.

Marketing services groups Chime Communications and Publicis, and PR company Grayling, are among agencies shortlisted for the work, which covers global public affairs and consumer and trade PR.

"Four or five agencies, including Burson-Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton, pulled out of the pitch process at very short notice," explained Al Jazeera international managing director Nigel Parsons.

"We were given to understand it was due to conflict of interest with US clients," he said, adding that the channel was "disappointed" but had "accepted their decision".

The channel, labelled "the mouthpiece of Osama bin Laden" by the Bush administration, is keen to tackle negative perceptions of its news reporting and emphasise that terrorist tapes make up a "tiny" amount of its output.

The English-speaking Al Jazeera channel will focus more on the developing world than rival networks, and will operate out of London, Washington, Kuala Lumpar and Doha.

It hopes to eventually establish a global network.

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