Seven years after it arrived in the U.S., Al Jazeera is putting up its sign.
As it launches a major expansion to become a full-fledged cable news channel in the U.S., the Qatar-owned network believes animosity toward its sister Arabic-language news operation has waned. Or at least it has dissipated enough to allow Al Jazeera to splash its name across its new Washington broadcast center, which is currently housed in a dingy, unmarked office building.
“Imagine six or seven years ago, trying to find real estate for Al Jazeera in Washington. I’m sure it wasn’t easy,” says Bob Wheelock, a former ABC executive in charge of setting up Al Jazeera America, as the network will be called. But now “we’re going to have signage, you know, just like CBS, ABC, CNN, CBN, just like everybody else,” he says. “We’re psyched.”
With the $500 million purchase of Current TV from former vice president Al Gore and other investors last year, Al Jazeera bought a place on cable boxes in 41 million homes. Now the network plans to grow from a news operation of 13 people to 200 people in cities across the country.