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Al Jazeera English to broadcast in Canada

TORONTO (JTA) — Canadian broadcast regulators approved a license for Al Jazeera Television’s English-language service.

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.

Despite concerns expressed "by certain parties, there is nothing on the record … that leads the Commission to conclude that AJE would violate Canadian regulations, such as those regarding abusive comment," the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission announced Nov. 26 on its Web site.

The broadcast regulator received more than 2,600 comments supporting Al Jazeera’s license application and about 40 opposing it.

Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told The Toronto Star that his organization did not oppose the Al Jazeera English application, in part because of the network’s assurances to leaders of Canada’s Jewish community that a liaison committee would be formed to respond quickly to any concerns raised about content.

"Much of what I’ve seen of Al Jazeera English is not a problem," Farber said.

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

In 2004, the telecommunications commission approved the application but attached conditions so stringent that cable providers were unable to comply.

Both CJC and B’nai Brith have said they would remain vigilant about the content of Al Jazeera’s English service.

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