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Al-Jazeera coming to Canada

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TORONTO (JTA) — Canadian Jewish groups have indicated that they will not oppose the arrival in the country of the English version of Al-Jazeera.

The move comes after an aggressive campaign to bring Al-Jazeera English to Canada, which saw the network take the unusual step of consulting both the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith Canada in February to work through concerns about its programming.

Bernie Farber, chief executive officer of the CJC, said he has not offered an outright endorsement of Al-Jazeera English, but said an invitation to sit on the consulting committee helped ease concerns.

"We do not oppose [the service] but remain vigilant and concerned," Farber told JTA.

Similarly, B’nai Brith said in a letter to Canada’s broadcast regulator that "in the spirit of cooperation," it would not oppose the bid but will remain vigilant.

Tony Burman, a former executive of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. who is now managing director of Al-Jazeera English based in Doha, Qatar, has proposed that his consultative committee meet every six months to discuss the network’s on-air content to ensure that there are no major concerns.

Jewish groups had sounded strong opposition in 2003 when the Arabic-language version of Al-Jazeera applied for a broadcast license in Canada. Fears were raised then that the network would beam messages of hate against Jews and Israel into the country.

In 2004, Canada federal regulators approved the application but attached conditions so stringent that cable providers were unable to comply.

Al-Jazeera English could be available in Canada this summer.
 

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