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Cablegate: Al Jazeera English to Start Broadcasting In

VZCZCXRO9861
RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHGP #2247/01 3610602
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270602Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4644
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA 0065
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0503
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0167
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 SINGAPORE 002247

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOIC SN MY SCUL KMDR
SUBJECT: AL JAZEERA ENGLISH TO START BROADCASTING IN
SINGAPORE

1. (U) Summary. Al Jazeera English will likely begin
broadcasting in Singapore twenty-four hours a day in the
first quarter of 2008, according to Nigel Parsons, Managing
Director of Al Jazeera English. On December 4, the Media
Development Authority of Singapore granted SingTel a landing
license to broadcast Al Jazeera English on mio TV, SingTel's
internet protocol television (IPTV) service. Parsons added
that Al Jazeera English will also pursue a full cable license
to broadcast on StarHub, which reaches more viewers than
SingTel. End Summary.

Getting Comfortable with Al Jazeera
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) After monitoring Al Jazeera English long enough to
be familiar and comfortable with the channel and its content,
Singapore,s Media Development Authority agreed to give
SingTel a license to broadcast Al Jazeera English in
Singapore on its mio TV, SingTel,s internet protocol (IPTV)
service, Amy Chua, Director of Media Content at MDA told us.
Chua did not expect any problems, but noted that if the
channel broadcasts objectionable content, it would be up to
SingTel as the supplier to take action and MDA would step in
if appropriate action were not taken. Nigel Parsons,
Managing Director of Al Jazeera English commented to us that
the GOS took a cautious approach, monitoring the channel for
some time before they granted a license. Parsons observed,
"I wouldn't be surprised if they decided to give us the IPTV
license to kind of test the waters."

3. (SBU) When asked what prompted the MDA to approve a
license for Al Jazeera English at this time, Chua mentioned
the popular demand expressed by visitors from the Middle East
who want to see Middle East reporting while in Singapore.
Krishnasamy Bhavani, Press Secretary at the Ministry of
Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) commented that
Singapore is surrounded by Muslim nations and needs to offer
programming relevant to the region.

Broadcast to Begin in Early 2008
--------------------------------

4. (U) Al Jazeera English will begin broadcasting as soon as
final details are negotiated between the channel and SingTel,
according to Parsons. He expects the channel to be on air
twenty-four hours a day on mio TV beginning early in the
first quarter of 2008. In addition, Parsons noted that the
channel signed a non-exclusive agreement with SingTel, so
that Al Jazeera English can pursue an additional license with
StarHub (Singapore,s main cable service) to become part of
that supplier's basic tier service.

5. (U) Al Jazeera English currently has hubs in Kuala
Lumpur, Doha, London, and Washington. The broadcasting
centers hand off to each other over the course of the day,
and SingTel plans to broadcast the channel twenty-four hours
a day. Parsons mentioned that the broadcaster hopes to set
up new studios in Nairobi and Gaza, and that Latin America is
quite high on the channel's priority list as well.

Impact of Al Jazeera in the Region
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) Parsons cited two regional examples where Al
Jazeera English had led coverage of local events that
garnered international attention. He boasted that Al Jazeera
was the only broadcaster to remain in Burma throughout the
demonstrations and its footage was aired by broadcasters
around the world. Regarding the November 25 Indian community
demonstration in Kuala Lumpur, Parsons asserted that the
local Malaysian media were forced to report the event in full
because Al Jazeera English was running it in full on the
Astro channel. He commented that Al Jazeera had initially
been concerned whether it was seditious to cover an illegal
demonstration, and had talked it over with police and local
government officials before deciding to broadcast coverage.
He claimed the channel placed great importance on being
impartial and presented its stories in context. Parsons
added that a Malaysian government spokesman in Kuala Lumpur
had thanked Al Jazeera English for its impartial coverage of
the demonstration.


SINGAPORE 00002247 002 OF 002


7. (SBU) Comment. The GOS clearly considered the
ramifications carefully before granting a license for Al
Jazeera English to broadcast in Singapore: press reports
indicate that MDA took most of the year to reach its
decision. The GOS likely welcomed SingTel's application for
the license because its mio TV reaches a much smaller
audience than rival broadcaster StarHub's cable service.
With a target audience of Singapore's 14 percent Malay Muslim
population and many visitors familiar with Al Jazeera, the
new channel will likely attract a solid market share. GOS
officials will watch closely, and determine whether to grant
a second broadcast license for StarHub to air Al Jazeera
English based on their assessment of the channel's content
and Singaporean reaction to the broadcasts. End Comment.


Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
HERBOLD

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