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Al Jazeera International sees delay in launch

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MUMBAI: The proposed English news and current affairs channel Al Jazeera International has delayed the launch of the channel from April to September at the earliest.

The channel an offshoot of the Qatar-based Arabic network has pushed the launch date on account of series of constructions and technical glitches at its four centres in London, Doha, Kuala Lumpur and Washington, according to The Guardian.

The channel is said to be still experiencing problems and thus, the launch has now been stated to be early September.

The executives of the channel are said to be increasingly fed up with the slow pace of progress. "Staff are extremely frustrated, as is the management, who are tearing their hair out at the inefficiency of support staff," said a source to the publication The Guardian.

The bosses at the English-language service were concerned about "meddling" from Al-Jazeera's Arabic owners, who are thought to be worried the new channel could end up a "watered down version of the BBC or CNN" and a "damp squib managed by non-Muslim westerners".

Although the broadcaster has inked a deal with the Sky Digital in UK, it is however finding difficulties in striking deals in the key American market.

The Al-Jazeera spokeswoman speaking to The Guardian said that the broadcaster was not releasing an official launch date. However, she said the channel's management had a particular date towards which they were working.

"They are waiting on their technical requirements to be fulfilled," she said.

CNN and BCC are the main competitors to the Al-Jazeera International targeting the English-language news audiences, particularly in its coverage of the Middle East.

The broadcaster has already roped in high-profile personalities, including Sir David Frost, former CNN Riz Khan, former CNN Rageh Omaar, Channel Five news presenter Barbara Serra for the London newsroom, and as well as other journalists from Sky, ITN and elsewhere.

Recently, the channel hired a host of presenters for sports coverage.

Al-Jazeera launched in Qatar in November 1996, bankrolled by the Emir of Qatar, but came to international prominence during the US attack on Afghanistan in 2001 when it was the only foreign broadcaster in Kabul.

Al-Jazeera, which has been credited with changing the face of Arab television news, has faced criticism from the US as well as several Arab states. The channel is always surrounded by controversies by screening messages from the most-wanted man Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist group Al-Qaida.

The British Broadcasting Corporation has announced plans to set up its own Arabic news channel next year and has roped in former Al-Jazeera executive Salah Negm as news editor.

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