Al-Jazeera launches as digital Canadian channel

Unveiled plan to open Toronto news bureau in June

TORONTO -- Overcoming years of regulatory and consumer pushback, the English language Al-Jazeera network on Wednesday launched as a Canadian digital cable channel.

The Qatar-based international news service Al-Jazeera English also unveiled plans for a news bureau in Toronto to launch in June, with Canadian-born journalist Imtiaz Tyab reporting on local developments. Also joining the Canadian bureau is senior producer Jet Belgraver, who
shifted over from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC), where she worked as a news and documentary producer.

Al-Jazeera English, which is headed up by former CBC senior exec Tony Burman as managing director, launched here on three main cable systems: Bell TV, Rogers Communications and Groupe Videotron.

The international news channel also comes into Canada with no conditions of license. That's in contrast to 2003 when the CRTC, Canada's TV regulator, greenlit the Arabic language Al-Jazeera service for Canadian carriage, but ordered cablers and other content carriers to edit out violence or potential hate messages.

The CRTC at the time bowed interest groups that argued allowing the Arabic language Al-Jazeera service onto the airwaves would expose domestic audiences to viewing beheadings and the bloody aftermath of Middle East terrorist attacks in real time.

Canadian cable and satellite TV operators seven years ago balked at the expense, or bother, of editing the Arabic Al-Jazeera service as a condition of carriage, but have started to carry the English-language counterpart.