India TV, Al-Jazeera agree on barter of news content

NEW DELHI: Confirming a report filed by yesterday, Arabian satellite news channel Al-Jazeera this afternoon announced an alliance with Rajat Sharma's India TV that would involve an "exchange" of content.

According to the agreement reached between the two news channels, which would not involve any financial dealings, Al-Jazeera's prime time news bulletin dubbed into Hindi would air daily on India TV. India TV hopes that Al-Jazeera would do the same.

"We have tied up with India TV as we believe that like our network, it (India TV) also believes in putting journalistic considerations before commercial interests, " Al-Jazeera MD Wadah Khanfar said during a press briefing here today after exchanging signed documents with India TV chairman Rajat Sharma.

The agreement will also include exchange of real-time news updates from the respective regions and the telecast of the Al-Jazeera bulletins will begin from 3 September at 11 pm on India TV.

Pointing out that the tie-up with India TV is part of Al-Jazeera's plans to make forays into new marketplaces, Khanfar said the agreement with India TV is independent of any other expansion plans the Arab network may be having for India.

The Qatar-based channel came into the limelight through its coverage of the first two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq which offered an Arab perspective on the conflicts and broke the virtual monopoly Western news media had up till that time over reportage from the region. No wonder, the promotional clips aired by Al-Jazeera at today's press conference has several instances of US military bosses and US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying `dump the channel' or `change the channel' to questions on Al-Jazeera's coverage during the Iraq was.

"Al-Jazeera has provided Arab audiences with a much needed platform for interaction and debate, something that was quite unfamiliar in this part of the world. India holds an important audience base for us and this agreement will enable us to provide India with news about the Arab world and vice versa. We have a mandate of extending and enhancing professional relationships with international media. By signing this agreement with India TV, both news channels will be able to provide a more comprehensive image of the sub-continent to our viewers," Khanfar further explained.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, a beaming Sharma said, "India TV endeavours to provide viewers with a complete picture of news as it occurs in the world. There has been a dearth of composite and immediate news reporting of events in the Arabic world."

Pointing out that for the past one month Al-Jazeera signals were being test-received at India TV's studios on the outskirts of Delhi, Sharma added, " By signing this agreement, alongside providing in-depth and composite international news to our viewers, India TV will also provide an additional picture of events and current affairs in the Arab world to viewers in India."

Asked by whether India TV is looking at other similar tie-ups, Sharma answered in the affirmative. "We are looking at some tie-ups in South India and also in the Western world," he added.

As an aside, yesterday when CNN International's Chris Cramer, also in India, was asked about the Indian foray of Al-Jazeera --- often termed the 'CNN of the Arabic world' --- he had said that CNN finds it flattering that comparisons were made between the two networks and "competition is always welcome."

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