Last updated: 22 May, 2013

Al-Jazeera leads Arab news channels

Al-Jazeera is the Middle East and North Africa’s most-watched Arabic-language television channel, according to an independent survey, the Qatar-based broadcaster said on Wednesday.

An audience survey carried out Ipsos and Sigma in the first quarter showed that the “Al Jazeera’s daily viewership … was 34 percent higher than all the other pan-Arab channels combined,” it said.

The research was conducted in 21 countries on viewers over age 15 and applies only to the news channel, excluding sports, documentary and children’s channels, as well as Al-Jazeera Live.

Figures received by AFP, gave Al-Jazeera 25,239,539 viewers, followed by major competitor, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya, with 14,477,274 viewers.

Both channels were way ahead of France 24 (810,547), Abu Dhabi-based Sky News Arabia (517,850) and Russia Today (90,061).

“Al Jazeera continues to lead due to our distinguished commitment to a code of ethics along with editorial policies based on speed, accuracy and objectivity,” said CEO Ahmed Bin Jassim al-Thani.

He said the channel faces daily challenges, such as “the closure of our offices last month in Iraq, which will not deter us from continuing our coverage of the important stories.”

Last month, Iraq’s media regulator suspended the licences of 10 channels, including Al-Jazeera, for allegedly “encouraging violence and sectarianism.”

During the Arab Spring uprisings, Al-Jazeera faced repeated accusations of being biased, with critics accusing it of backing Islamists who subsequently came to power.

Its coverage has many times caused disruption to the channel’s operations in a number of Arab countries.

With massive resources from gas-rich Qatar, Al-Jazeera has revolutionised the Arabic-language media and reporting on the Middle East since its foundation in 1996.

It is now preparing to launch Al-Jazeera America as well as a French channel.