Their News [Archives:2008/1156/Local News]

May 19 2008

Freedom House Welcomes China's Greater Media Openness Amid Quake

Freedom House welcomes the increased openness that China is demonstrating by allowing both local and international media to cover the effects of the country's earthquake, and calls on China's government to maintain greater transparency.

State-run media coverage of the earthquake, which has claimed at least 22,000 lives, has been far more extensive than in the past with independent outlets gaining similar access to sensitive sites. Previously, the government simply closed off access to disaster areas, or in the case of the SARS epidemic, simply denied its existence for several months.

“In the midst of this great national tragedy, China's government has apparently decided to allow the press more freedom to work,” said Paula Schriefer, Freedom House director of advocacy. “This distinct break from its usual treatment of journalists deserves recognition from Chinese citizens and internationals alike.”

China typically maintains tight control on media through intimidation, imprisonment and harassment. New restrictions were put in place over the last few years including a 2007 law that allows media outlets' licenses to be revoked if they report “false information” about natural disasters, emergencies or government responses to them without obtaining prior authorization. Taboo topics for the media include criticism of Communist Party leaders, violations of minority rights in Tibet and Xinjiang, Taiwan independence and Falun Gong.

“It is too soon to know whether China intends to cultivate a more open relationship with journalists in the future, but its response during this crisis is an encouraging first step,” said Schriefer.

China is ranked Not Free in the 2008 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and in the 2008 version of Freedom of the Press.

Al Jazeera Network makes key distribution gains worldwide

The Al Jazeera Network today announces exceptional progress distributing its channels and content during the first months of 2008. 10 million households have been added to Al Jazeera English's reach, extending its worldwide audience to over 110 million homes. The audience of the original Al Jazeera Arabic channel is also climbing fast – the service now reaches over 50 million households globally. Fresh distribution deals for both channels span the globe across Europe, Asia and the US as well as Africa and the Middle East.

New European deals:

The Network has clinched a groundbreaking agreement in France, a country with a large Arabic-speaking community. The new partnership with France Telecom takes Al Jazeera Arabic into 800,000 homes, making it the first-choice international news channel for millions of the nation's Arabic speakers. Al Jazeera Arabic is now also broadcast live on ONO, the leading cable operator in Spain, taking the channel to 900,000 households. In addition the Network has strengthened its already widespread distribution across Germany, with Kabel BW, one of the nation's premier cable operators, now including both the Arabic and English news channels as part of its digital offering.

In Ukraine Al Jazeera English is now broadcasting live to subscribers to Viasat's new nationwide digital DTH service, Vision TV, and to additional subscribers in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In Portugal, the Network launched the English Channel to around 100,000 new direct to home (DTH) subscribers with PT Comunicacies and is also now available on the digital package of the country's second largest cable provider, Cabovisao. In the UK, the Network has unveiled an exciting partnership with Freesat, the new, free, digital satellite television service that can be received by almost all of the nation (98% of households). Freesat requires no subscription or contract, just a one-off payment for equipment and installation. The channel also launched with Hungary's second largest cable operator, T-Kabel Magyarorszag and with KPN, one of the largest IPTV operators in The Netherlands. Meanwhile an innovative deal with state of the art, internet (web) TV service, Zattoo also takes Al Jazeera English and Arabic 1.6 million online viewers throughout Germany, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway.

New Asian deals:

The channel prides itself on the quality of its Asian reporting and a raft of new deals has greatly bolstered its audiences across the region. Vietnam's national platform, VTC is now taking Al Jazeera English into an impressive 2 million new households. In Singapore, a new partnership with leading operator SingTel is takes the channel to mioTV's viewers, and in Hong Kong new partnerships with PCCW's nowTV and Hong Kong Cable (i-CABLE) make it available in the vast majority of the territory's pay TV homes. Five agreements have been signed in the Republic of the Philippines in recent weeks, expanding Al Jazeera English's reach to over 500,000 households nationwide. Filipino operators now carrying the channel include Global Destiny Cable, Eaglevision, Royal Cablevision and Ultravision – while partner broadcaster ABS-CBN is now simulcasting the channel every weekday on its ABS-CBN News Channel.

In Japan Al Jazeera Network signed a broadcast licensing agreement with Nippon TV's BS11 channel which will dub 30 minute Al Jazeera English news segments from Kuala Lumpur and rebroadcast them across the country. The agreement gives BS11 access to Al Jazeera exclusive news clips for inclusion in BS11 content. And in China, an agreement with the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games will make Al Jazeera Arabic available at all of the 2008 Games' official venues and sites.

New deals in the Rest of the World:

In the Middle East the Network's nascent syndication business signed a milestone deal, which sees 150 hours of Al Jazeera Arabic programming being licensed to New TV in Lebanon. Al Jazeera's groundbreaking programming will now reach an incremental audience numbering tens of thousands and the agreement demonstrates the value that Al Jazeera programming carries in the syndication marketplace. The Network has also renewed its agreement with ART for the carriage of Al Jazeera Arabic via the DISH Network in the United States.

New Al Jazeera Mobile deals:

Al Jazeera Mobile has newly-launched services on Al Madar and Libyana in Libya, on Etisalat in Egypt and Yemen Mobile in the Yemen – and existing IPTV platform partner Singapore's SingTel launches Al Jazeera English mobile TV later this month. These deployments strengthen the Network's role as a key multimedia player, enabling Al Jazeera to provide an array of SMS, MMS and live mobile TV services to a great number of users, delivering the latest news to subscribers on the move.

YouTube Anniversary:

Al Jazeera English celebrated its first year on the video sharing site YouTube, during the first quarter of 2008, having become firmly established as one of the most popular news channels on the site (, generating more than 21 million video views in the first 12 months since its launch. And with over 20,000 subscribers, AJE has over twice as many regular viewers as its nearest news competitor, putting the Network at the forefront of the social media revolution.

Phil Lawrie, Al Jazeera Network's Director, Global Distribution commented: “The last few months have seen aggressive growth in the distribution of Al Jazeera's channels and content across multiple markets. We remain committed to our goal of reaching an ever-wider number of viewers across the globe – via all forms of distribution technology.”

Wadah Khanfar, Director General of the Network said: “We are very proud of what we are achieving as a network of channels. The Network's unique editorial mission to transform global news by balancing the flow of information from the global south to the north is supported by a family of channels that have strong editorial integrity and are never afraid to challenge perspectives. We hope to continue this success and to keep building on our achievements.”

Al Jazeera English launched 18 months ago on 15th November 2006.

Five Interns Selected for YAL-Showtime 'Media Internship Exchange Program'

Young Arab Leaders (YAL) and Showtime Arabia, the leading pay TV Network in the Middle East and North Africa, announced today that five students have been selected for their Media Internship Exchange Program starting in June 2008.

The program, created out of a partnership between Showtime Arabia and YAL, opens the doors for Arab undergraduates to obtain experience in a world-class media environment. By working with seasoned professionals in the Showtime headquarters in Dubai Media City, the interns will gain experience in several areas including programming, marketing, business development, media law and sports programming.

In order to maximise the benefits of the internship, YAL and Showtime Arabia are organising a three-day “Management Capabilities Workshop” to provide training for the interns in areas like recruitment and retention, performance management, coaching, decision making and communication skills.

HE Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, Chairman of the Board of YAL, said: “The rapid growth of knowledge-based industries like media offers tremendous new opportunities for young professionals in our region. Exposing them to the work environments of industry-leading companies at the beginning of their careers will raise their aspirations and set them up for highly productive careers. Partnerships with companies like Showtime are critical for YAL to facilitate such opportunities.”.

Marc-Antoine d'Halluin, Showtime Arabia President and CEO said: “The internship program