Finally launching in India after a four-year wait for government approvals, Al-Jazeera's English news channel plans a marketing blitz next month to correct the “myths and misconceptions” surrounding it.
“We want people to start recognising us as an international channel dedicated to good journalism…which does not look at the world through any particular prism,” said Al Jazeera English managing director Al Anstey, when asked about the current perception of his brand as the Arabic channel that had exclusively broadcast al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's video messages after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. “We are planning an extensive marketing, brand awareness and grass roots campaign in India early next year…in print, digital, broadcast and outdoor platforms,” he told reporters.
The channel started broadcasting in India at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, after the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting gave the final go-ahead to permit the creation of downlinking of Al Jazeera's signals in the country. “Hundreds” of cable operators had agreed to include the free-to-air channel in their current line-up, according to Mr. Anstey, who refused to reveal any numbers, whether with regard to investment, targeted reach or revenue. All he would say was that the potential market for Al Jazeera English channel was the more than 300 million English speakers in the country.
“We have received letters of intent from cable operators in Kerala, Mumbai; very strong intents from Kolkata and the West Bengal region, so you can see that all parts of the country are represented,” said Anmol Saxena, channel's bureau chief in Delhi. “We also expect to finish negotiations with DTH operators within the next three or four weeks.”
When Al Jazeera — whose Arabic broadcasts began in 1996 — launched its 24-hour English news channel in 2006, it applied for permission to downlink in India as well. However, with the Home Ministry initially citing security considerations to recommend against a licence, it has been a long wait for the channel.
“This is an exciting breakthrough that has been in the works for several years,” said Mr. Anstey.