SINGAPORE: Al Jazeera seeks licence to broadcast in S'pore
The Middle East news channel hopes to begin broadcasting within the year via SingTel's new mio television service
The Straits Times
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
By Chua Hian Hou
The controversial Middle East news channel Al Jazeera English has applied for a licence to broadcast here.
The Qatar-based English-language TV station initiated talks with the Media Development Authority (MDA) "early this year," according to a news agency report.
It hopes to get the green light from the local regulator to start broadcasting within the year.
The Straits Times understands that if approved, Al Jazeera English will be broadcast via SingTel's recently launched mio TV service.
At present it can be accessed locally via video streaming from the Al Jazeera English website, although the picture quality is not high.
Al Jazeera English's managing director, Mr Nigel Parsons, told Reuters on Monday that the channel was undergoing "a very long monitoring process."
"We are not the devil incarnate.We understand we have to be patient," said Mr Parsons, who was referring to the station's often controversial broadcasts, which have included videos from Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The Straits Times was unable to reach Mr Parsons.
An MDA spokesman reiterated its earlier reply to Reuters, that it was still assessing Al Jazeera English's application.
"As with all foreign channels, the authorities will need to make assessments based on criteria such as public expectations and interest, as well as the ability to meet local programme standards," MDA's director of media content Amy Chua told Reuters.
The deputy director of the Institute of Policy Studies, Mr Arun Mahizhnan, hopes the application will succeed.
"From all accounts, Al Jazeera's English language service offers an extraordinary window and unique insight into the Arabic world for those of us who do not speak Arabic, something Western news agencies have difficulty offering," he said.
He also noted that as it would be a pay channel, the audience would not be casual viewers but those interested in the Arabic world for political, religious or business reasons, such as himself.
Mr Mahizhnan declined to speculate on whether Al Jazeera English would be granted a permit but said that "any news agency that provides a reasonable level of objectivity should be allowed -- and if it is, I will certainly subscribe to it."
According to Al Jazeera English's website, the privately funded channel, which boasts a viewership of 100 million, was launched last November to balance the "current typical information flow by reporting from the developing world back to the West."
Besides its main Qatar office in Doha, it also maintains offices in Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington.
Date Posted: 8/1/2007