Al Jazeera plans to go international in 2006

Arab news channel will try to woo people away from CNN and others. But first step will be finding a carrier.

DOHA, Qatar--Can Al Jazeera find a home on U.S. cable networks? It's going to try next spring.

The media company, which operates an Arabic-language news TV channel and Web sites, will open a 24-hour English-language news channel starting in spring 2006 with broadcasting centers in Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington, D.C.

It will also relaunch its English-language Web site, complete with features like Short Message Service (SMS) publishing. The new station and the revamped Web site will be branded Al Jazeera International.

Subjects covered by the station will run the gamut, including talk shows, sports, international news and regional stories. It will also hire correspondents around the globe, opening up to 30 bureaus worldwide.

Currently, Al Jazeera is negotiating with Astro, a Malaysian satellite TV provider, to carry the channel. No potential U.S. carriers have been named.

The company launched in 1996 with the permission of Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the ruler of Qatar, who is trying to diversify and modernize the small nation on the Arabian Peninsula. The government does not interfere with the content of the news operation, and that policy will continue with Al Jazeera International.

The station gained fame for dropped off at its doors, and it has become a source of news in the region for many. U.S. security analysts also watch the station, sometimes with the help of simultaneous translation software.

Like many large companies in the Middle East, Al Jazeera International will largely be managed and staffed by foreigners. Al Jazeera's management looks like the alumni club of a British boarding school. Nigel Parsons, formerly with CNN and the BBC, will be the managing director, while Steve Clark, director of news, hails from England's Sky News. David Foster, another Sky alumnus, will serve as the main presenter, or anchor, from Doha.

Parsons earlier this month held a press conference in Malaysia to launch the effort.

Although the company is speaking to local media about the effort, it currently is refusing interviews with western reporters. The company wants to time news stories about the international push to coincide with the launch of the station and Web site, according to Al Jazeera International spokeswoman Charlotte Dent. Dent, however, did provide a document outlining the strategy.

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