24-hour Arabic (and English-language) news channel Al Jazeera is being legally restructured. A statement from its Doha headquarters says the operation is to have a comprehensive review, and its legal status will change. The news comes ahead of promised expansion into Turkish, Swahili and Balkan versions.
The name change is subtle, as is the broadcasting policy. The statement, reported by BBC Monitoring which quotes a Saudi newspaper, Al Sharq, which says: “By virtue of Law Number 10, promulgated late [in May] by His Highness Shaykh Hamad Bin-Khalifah al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, the legal status of Al-Jazeera Network has been changed from a public institution to a “private institution of public utility.” Its name has been changed to Al-Jazeera Media Network.
The move is reportedly intended to give the news broadcaster more flexibility and to guarantee a faster decision-making process. It is expected to play a key role in shaping the future of the Al-Jazeera newswires as a global media outlet.
“The step comes in line with a number of strategic initiatives announced recently by the network’s board of directors and general manager, which included expanding to new areas and introducing new satellite channels, such as Al-Jazeera Balkans, Al-Jazeera Turkey, and Al-Jazeera Swahili. Targeting expansion opportunities in new fields of media, and the utilisation of relevant top-notch technologies, were also among the strategic initiatives,” quotes the newspaper.
“Changing the news provider’s name to Al-Jazeera Media Network was intended to conform with its new status after having developed into a media organisation with business activities extending beyond providing satellite television services. The news network will offer new media-related services, aside from Internet and mobile phone services. This shift is necessary for Al-Jazeera to keep pace with the tremendous development of information services worldwide.”
“As part of this move the management is expected to commence a comprehensive review of their internal policies, taking advantage of the new status of flexibility in decision-making. The new policies and procedures will ensure quick transmission of news and easy access to information.”
It is noteworthy that Al-Jazeera Satellite Channel [JSC] was launched in Doha on 1 November 1996 as the first around-the-clock Arab news channel. Having developed quickly, Al-Jazeera became the first source of news in the Middle East to attract around 50 million viewers.
The centre operates satellite channels and runs the following institutions: Al-Jazeera news channel, Al-Jazeera Mubasher [live broadcast], Al-Jazeera sports channels, Al-Jazeera English news channel, Al-Jazeera documentary channel, Al-Jazeera Net website, Al-Jazeera Centre for Studies research unit, and Al-Jazeera Mobile messaging services unit.
It is not known whether the name change or operating status means the end of the financial help that Al Jazeera has traditionally received from the Emir.