Resignation hits al-Jazeera plans

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The Independent Online

Al-Jazeera International, the much-vaunted Arab rival to CNN, has suffered yet another setback. After continual delays to its launch, the English-language news channel has now lost one of its top executives.

Paul Gibbs, the director of programmes, has resigned after differences of opinions with management. He announced his departure just as AJI is gearing up to go on air in late September.

A former editor of BBC Breakfast News, it was Mr Gibbs who oversaw the recruitment of high-profile names such as former BBC News correspondent Rageh Omaar for AJI flagship programme Witness, and Sir David Frost for the leading news discussion show.

Last week Mr Gibbs announced his departure after a series of conferences with al-Jazeera chiefs, including managing director Nigel Parsons - the former senior executive with Associated Press Television News and the BBC. He is understood to have had a different vision for the channel.

Al-Jazeera, which is bankrolled by the Emir of Qatar, is already the leading broadcaster in the Middle East. However, its planned international service has been beset by troubles. The service was due to launch in April but was delayed by construction and technical problems at its international bases in London, Doha, Kuala Lumpur and Washington. The launch had already been pushed back to June and is now mooted for the end of September.

AJI has also failed to secure a platform on the BBC's Freeview within the UK, but will be available on Sky's Freesat service and over the internet.

It is thought that Mr Gibbs will now cancel his slot at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival (MEGITF) where he was to talk about his plans and ambitions for the channel in the global market.