Indians can now tune into Al-Jazeera news channel

Indian television viewers can now tune into Al-Jazeera, with the government granting licence to the Qatar-based English news channel after a four-year wait.

New Delhi: Indian television viewers can now
tune into Al-Jazeera, with the government granting licence to
the Qatar-based English news channel after a four-year wait.

"Al-Jazeera has been given permission for downlinking
their channel as per Indian norms," a senior Information and
Broadcasting Ministry official said to a news agency here on Tuesday.

"Al-Jazeera English is pleased to announce that the
channel has been granted a downlinking licence to broadcast in
India," the channel, which has its headquarters in Doha, said
in a statement. However, it did not comment on the exact date
of launch in India.

The signal of the news network can now be downlinked by
the cable operators and satellite TV companies across the
country for broadcasting the free-to-air channel on TV sets as
part of their current line-up.

"The channel is now in the process of sending the
information on it obtaining the licence to the cable operators
so that they can begin downlinking the signals," the I&B
Ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

"It is also in the process of approaching the
Direct-to-Home operators," he added.

Al-Jazeera had applied for licence in 2006 and was
granted permission last week.

The channel said it had already received indication from
a number of service providers that they would air the channel.

"This is an exciting breakthrough that has been in the
works for several years, and we are extremely pleased that
Al-Jazeera English`s groundbreaking news and programming will
soon be available in India," the channel`s managing director
Al Anstey said.

"Al Jazeera is already presenting important stories from
India to global audience in more than 100 countries," he

The channel was initially launched in 1996 as an Arabic
news satellite TV channel, but has since expanded to being a
network of several outlets including an Internet service and
other language channels.

The channel gained worldwide attention after it started
covering the US war on terror live from Afghanistan by opening
an office there following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade
Centre`s twin towers and the Pentagon.

It also gained prominence by airing the video tapes of
al Qaeda leadership, in particular the statements of the
outfit`s most visible face, Osama bin Laden, after the 9/11
terror strike.

Al Jazeera English currently has a bureau in New Delhi,
which has covered major stories of international significance
including 26/11 Mumbai siege, 2009 general elections, the
Commonwealth Games this year and President Barack Obama`s
visit to India last month.

Al-Jazeera`s English channel has been up and running
since 2003 and has in 2009 got licence to broadcast in Canada.
It has reportedly also bought a TV station in Sarajevo, Bosnia
and Herzegovina this year and is set to begin broadcasting
there in January 2011.

Recently, it announced its plans to start an Urdu channel
targeting mostly Pakistani viewers.

The TV network has also had its rounds of controversies
after it faced restrictions while covering the Iraq war, and
faced criticism from Bahrain, Egypt and Israel for what they
said were biased reporting against them.

With more than 65 news bureaus around the world,
Al-Jazeera English has more than 1,000 employees worldwide.
The channel is currently available in more than 100 countries,
reaching more than 220 million households around the world.