Al Jazeera launches U.K. free-TV service

Available to 80% of Britain's 25 million households

LONDON -- Arab news network Al Jazeera will begin broadcasting its English news channel on Britain's Freeview free digital platform Thursday, making the U.K. its biggest English-speaking market for free TV.

The network, which has branched out into several channels and the Web since its foundation as an independent Arabic news channel in 1996, will be able to reach 80% of Britain's 25 million households.

Al Jazeera English is already available on satellite platforms Freesat and Sky in Britain, and reaches about 200 million homes worldwide, mostly on pay TV platforms.

Al Jazeera, which is based in Doha, aims to provide an alternative view of international news to those provided by other, Western global news providers like the BBC or Time Warner's CNN.

The sometimes dissenting views of the network, which was best known in the West for broadcasting hostage videos and messages from Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, have caused controversy in many Middle Eastern countries.

Al Jazeera English was launched in 2006.