By Graham Ruddick (The Guardian)
Arab world’s leading TV channel is used to controversy – but now it fears for its future as Saudi Arabia wants it shut down
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based broadcaster that has found itself at the centre of the Gulf diplomatic crisis, was launched in 1996, and has since grown to become the most-watched TV channel in the Arab world.
It claims to broadcast to more than 310m households in more than 100 countries. The company employs more than 3,000 people and has a London studio in the Shard.
The broadcaster rose to global prominence after the 9/11 attacks in the US when it transmitted grainy video messages from Osama bin Laden. However, by this time it had already established millions of viewers in the Middle East by offering a dynamic rolling news service that audiences had not experienced before.
When al-Jazeera was launched, the then emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said journalists would “report the news as they see it”. Al-Jazeera still claims to have been the “first independent news channel in the Arab world”.
The launch of an English-language channel in 2006 was part of a dramatic global expansion that has led to the establishment of more than 70 bureaux around the world.
Al-Jazeera launched a US cable news channel in October 2013, but this proved to be the peak of its growth, for now at least.
Al-Jazeera America was closed last year amid dwindling viewing figures and a collection of lawsuits.
We examine what Al Jazeera symbolises in the GCC political crisis. Plus, a war of buzzwords in South Africa’s media.