History and Current Growth
Al Jazeera was set up in the mid 1990’s by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. During this time the BBC was attempting to set up an independent News cannel in the Middle East, basing them selves in Saudi Arabia. They were unable to do this due to the Saudi government not allowing the BBC full editorial freedom. This resulted in them abandoning their plans. The Emir of Qatar saw the opportunity to set up the first independent news channel in the area not influenced by the government. It was set up in 1996 with an initial investment of $150 million. Al Jazeera means ‘the island’ in Arabic. They also managed to recruit many of the staff that had been working for the BBC in Saudi Arabia. For the early part of its existence it was solely an Arabic current affairs channel. In the early 2000’s it began to expand it’s programming. In 2003 they launched Al Jazeera sports, which is an Arabic language sports channel. In 2005 they expanded again with Al Jazeera Mobasher, which is a live unedited political events channel, and Al Jazeera Children’s channel. 2006 brought about the companies first venture into the international market with the release of Al Jazeera English. It has since become their most successful channel in their portfolio, available in 140 million homes compared to just 50 million homes that the Arabic version is available in. They continued their expansion in 2009 with the Al Jazeera documentary channel, showing Arabic documentaries. They released their most recent channel in 2009, Baraem which is another children’s channel aimed at pre school channel aged between 3 and 6.
Although he Middle East is made up of several different countries with differing cultures, there are similarities linking them, which have led to the growing success of Al Jazeera. The Middle East in general has a very large under 25 population. The Yemen, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt are thought to have over 50% of its population in this age group. As well as this, fast rising GDPs in this area during this time led to the forming of a very large middle class. Broadband access across the area is thought to be as low as 10% however there has been an increase in mobile network creation and usage. This it the main way people in the area get access to web content. The most significant trend that has led to Al Jazeera’s success is the widespread of illiteracy still in many Arabic countries. This results in the success of written media like newspapers being very low with most people preferring to get access to news through the television. Although according to Synovates European Media and Marketing study in 2008 top earning Arabs preferred CNN for English language news. Within the top 13% of earners CNN has 21% of the potential viewership. Al Jazeera’s English channel is ranked third with jus 9%. Due too Al Jazeera’s unique selling point in the Middle East of not being under editorial control by one government or regime has led to it regularly criticising Monarchs and leaders in the area. This in turn has led to Al Jazeera Arabic being banned in every country in the Middle East at one time or another apart from Israel. Since its inception one constant has been that Al Jazeera has always been considered a reliable source of news. Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths - The biggest strength that Al Jazeera has is that is a name synonymous with independent unrestricted broadcasting in the Middle East. The major reason Al Jazeera found so much success had a lot to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which bean shortly after its inception. It was the news channel, which had access to all the videos being put out by Osama Bin Laden. Something which up until recently was unheard of. The other major strength is funding, having the Qatari Royal family behind them means there is almost no limit to the amount that can be invested in expansion as can be seen from how...