Al Jazeera Unit Renews U.S. TV Push

Ex-TBS Executive Lawrie to Broker U.S. Carriage

More than one year after launching Al Jazeera English, the Middle East news network is renewing its push for carriage in the United States.

Al Jazeera brought in Phil Lawrie, a former vice president of sales and distribution at Turner Broadcasting System’s European headquarters, to broker carriage deals here.

Launched 10 years ago as a satellite news service for the Arab world, Al Jazeera’s current roster of channels includes Al Jazeera Documentary, Al Jazeera Sport and Al, reaching 100 million people globally.

In the United States, Al Jazeera English is only available via the Web and the network’s dedicated YouTube page. Several carriage deals were scuttled last year after special-interest groups mobilized protests due to misconceptions about the channel, such as that it was an anti-Israel propaganda tool that aired al-Qaeda videos of beheadings.

"99 times out of 100, once people see us, they like the channel and they realize that it’s a very impartial news channel," said Nigel Parsons, managing director of Al Jazeera English. "And it offers a very wide view of the world that you can’t get on other channels."

Underscoring the demand for the channel in the United States, Parsons pointed out that the Al Jazeera English Web site receives as many as 5 million page views per week, with 60% of the hits coming from the United States.

Al Jazeera English is headquartered in Doha, Qatar, with broadcast centers in Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington, D.C.

Parsons hopes to have "two significant deals signed in the next few months."

"Once we get a foothold, that will open doors," he said. "And as people see us, they’ll see that it’s safe to unleash us on their children."