Al Jazeera begins its inroad into India

MUMBAI: Lately if you’ve come across one too many hoardings saying: “We put human beings at the centre of our stories”, it’s only because Al Jazeera, the Doha-based English news channel, has kicked-off its first campaign to make its presence felt across the country.

Al Jazeera forayed into the Indian market way back in 2006, but had to wait four long years before being granted a downlink license for airing. Thereafter, the channel slowly went about expanding its reach into more and more Indian households to get a toehold alongside existing competitors i.e. BBC and CNN. Three years down the line however, the channel felt the time was ripe, especially with the festive season already here, to announce its presence nation-wide, especially in major metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore as well other towns.

Kick-started beginning October, Al Jazeera’s first campaign is here to stay till end November, after which an assessment will be done to evaluate viewership changes that may have taken place since the onset of the campaign. Approximately Rs 2- 2.5 crores have been spent on the nationwide campaign. Three creative ideas are trying to spread Al Jazeera’s message by displaying three issues- profits, earthquakes and global warming.

The focus of the campaign, whose creative has been designed by Ogilvy & Mather, is OOH (hoardings and buses), print and radio, with the talking point being how the channel always gives a human picture to issues. “People are the centre of the story is what Al Jazeera stands for and what we are trying to highlight through the campaign,” says Al Jazeera India bureau chief Anmol Saxena.

“The first phase was to let the people sample the channel and now, it is time to create awareness regarding Al Jazeera through this campaign,” says Saxena.

Anmol Saxena says that Al Jazeera puts people at the front of issues

Meanwhile, the second phase of the awareness campaign will begin in January 2014. Recently, the channel also launched a dedicated page for India, which according to Saxena will stay for a while. “There are always spotlight countries and currently the spotlight is on India,” he says.

"The campaign will definitely help lift the profile of Al-Jazeera and result in generating pull amongst Indian TV viewers," says a media observer. "It's a high decible one definitely and good money is being spent on it. But the Al-Jazeera team will have to simultaneously ramp up local coverage as well as distribution for the full benefits to accrue. Distribution in India is not that easy."

Another media expert states that there is a perception failure about the channel amongst Indians. "They think it is an Arabic perspective on world developments and that it is not as democratic as CNN or BBC. It is a long and winding road to correct this perception."

Currently, the Delhi bureau is the only office which covers the whole of India, with seven employees that would increase to about 10 in the next few months. The channel has had Sohail Rehman and Divya Gopalan as dedicated India correspondents since a few years and many freelancers who contribute to the channel and the website.

As of now, Al Jazeera is an FTA channel available on both DTH and cable TV (digital plus analog) while plans are afoot to acquire on the digital and DTH fronts. Presently, the channel is available on Tata Sky, Dish TV, InCable, Hathway and DEN.

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