Al Jazeera Plans Daily Doc


Al Jazeera International, the 24-hour English-language global-news network gearing up for a late-spring launch, has hired former BBC News Africa correspondent Rageh Omaar to host a daily documentary program from its London broadcast center.

Omaar’s Witness will feature human stories gathered from each of the channel’s four broadcast centers in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington.

Omar’s reporting from Iraq have been featured on weekday BBC news bulletins and News 24 in England, and many of his broadcasts were syndicated in the U.S. Omar, who was born in Somalia and has held stints as Developing World correspondent and Amman correspondent for the BBC, will continue to work with other broadcasters.

Although they have still not yet determined just how much U.S. carriage they will get by launch, Al Jazeera expects to reach 30 million-40 million homes worldwide initially, including 8 million homes under a deal already signed with BSkyB in the U.K.

AJI is funded by the Emir of Qatar, who launched the Arab-language Al Jazeera in 1996, and it will provide an objective, impartial worldwide perspective on news without political bias from any government agency, says its Commercial Director Lindsey Oliver, who joined the network last year after nine years at CNBC Europe.

Last month, the network named ex-Nightline correspondent Dave Marash as the news anchor at its Washington broadcast center. Marash joins Bureau Chief Will Stebbins, hired last year from Associated Press Television News, at the center, one of four the network will operate around the world. Forty staffers have been hired for the D.C. center, which will ultimately have 90.