BBC signs deal with al-Jazeera

Louise Jury
Friday 17 January 2003 01:00 GMT

The BBC has signed a news-gathering deal with al-Jazeera, the television news channel that has become well known in the West for its intimate contacts with al-Qa'ida.

The Qatar-based channel has provoked fierce opposition in Washington for its coverage of Osama bin Laden and the Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. But the channel has always maintained its independence and the BBC deal will be seen as a vindication of its news operation.

Adrian van Klaveren, the head of newsgathering at BBC News, said: "Al-Jazeera has established itself as a major international broadcaster. By working alongside them in our newsgathering activities, we will be able to provide an even more comprehensive service to the BBC's audiences both in the UK and around the world."

The agreement includes cooperation on the ground, such as sharing facilities. One example of this could include the BBC using al-Jazeera's satellite connections in Kabul. In return, the BBC is in talks to provide online advice for al-Jazeera's English language website, which is due to launch next month, and advice on training and safety.

Al-Jazeera ("the Peninsula"), founded in 1996, is the most popular news station in the Middle East. It has come to prominence in the West because of a number of exclusives, including broadcast footage of Osama bin Laden and filmed statements from the al-Qa'ida leader. One appeared to show him praising the 11 September hijackers as "great men".

The BBC said it had similar agreements with stations such as ABC in the United States and NHK in Japan.

The British Council also announced a media exchange with al-Jazeera yesterday to enable young British broadcast journalists to work with the staff of al-Jazeera for short periods in the UK and Qatar. "The aim is to demonstrate the UK's willingness to engage with the Arab world in the debate on newsgathering, reportage and perceived media bias," a spokesman said.

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