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September 25th, 2008
Al Jazeera's "Witness" to Air in the U.S.

After two years of struggling to get its news programming to American living rooms, Al Jazeera English’s program Witness will now be available to 30 million households in the U.S. via Link TV.

Created in 1996, the original Arabic-language Al Jazeera garnered global attention following the 9/11 attacks for broadcasting Osama bin Laden’s video taped messages, prompting former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to dub the station the “mouthpiece of Al-Qaeda.”

When Al Jazeera English launched in 2006, none of the major cable companies would carry the controversial station. By the end of its first year, Al Jazeera English reached nearly 90 million viewers around the world, but in the U.S., it could only be seen in northern Ohio and Burlington, Vermont.

In May 2008, the city-owned telecom company in Burlington decided to pull Al Jazeera following a flood of viewer complaints. This sparked a heated debate, with some citizens calling Al Jazeera anti-American, and others insisting that removing the channel would amount to censorship. Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss demanded that the channel not be pulled until the city’s residents had a chance to express their views. After two oversight committees were formed and citizens were asked for their input, the committees unanimously recommended that the city maintain Al Jazeera English.

Link TV’s vice president Lorraine Hess said she’s eager to include Al Jazeera in their lineup. “At Link TV we believe in airing programs that provide a unique perspective on international news, current events and cultures while presenting issues that are not often covered in the U.S. media,” Hess said.

Witness, Al Jazeera’s 30-minute, Emmy-nominated international documentary program, highlights the lives of ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances.

Link TV is available on cable in select cities, including New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and via satellite on DirecTV and Dish Network.

The show will air weekly starting Oct. 6 at 11 p.m.

In 2003, WIDE ANGLE’s film Exclusive to Al Jazeera went behind the scenes to Al Jazeera’s Arabic-broadcast headquarters in Qatar during its nonstop coverage of the war in Iraq. Exclusive to Al Jazeera shows the network’s similarities to its Western media counterparts — and the differences.

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