BBC to Challenge Al Jazeera; British Media Outlet Plans 24-Hour TV in Arabic

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Byline: Amy Doolittle, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) wants to start a 24-hour BBC Arabic television service that would rival Arabic channel Al Jazeera.

The media outlet is developing a proposal after a request from the British Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO).

"The FCO asked the BBC World Service to develop a proposition for a BBC Arabic television service of news, information, discussion programs and documentaries," the BBC said in a statement released Thursday.

The new BBC Arabic channel would compete directly with Al Jazeera, the Arabic channel known for playing tapes from terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Al Jazeera is not worried that the BBC will steal viewers.

"They might be a competition, but I think that Al Jazeera is strong enough to solidify its position. We are very popular in the Arab world - our audience trusts us," said Hussein, a journalist for Al Jazeera who declined to give his full name.

Trust is a major issue as to whether a British-funded Arabic channel would succeed in Arab countries.

"It's a question of credibility, and in any media outlet it takes time to establish credibility," Judith Kipper, director of the Middle East Forum of the Council on Foreign Relations, said. …