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EGYPT: Al Jazeera official says Web traffic skyrocketed during protests

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Tony Burman, Al Jazeera’s head of strategy for the Americas, said traffic to the satelite network’s English-language website, where a live stream of its broadcast is available, increased 2,500% during the past week of Egypt coverage. He said up to 60% of the traffic was from the United States.

In a commentary in Saturday’s Toronto Star, Burman noted that during that period, an estimated 7 million Americans have watched 50 million minutes of Al Jazeera coverage.

California-based Link TV, watched by more than 33 million American households via the DirecTV and Dish satellite systems, has been broadcasting up to 12 hours of Al Jazeera coverage daily, said Burman, former managing director of Al Jazeera English and a former editor-in-chief of CBC News.

‘Al Jazeera has been unique among broadcasters by making its content available to cable and satellite systems worldwide so that potential viewers — particularly in Canada and the U.S. — can decide for themselves whether they want to watch,’ Burman wrote. ‘In Canada this month, in light of the events in Egypt and the growing public interest in the channel’s news and programming, AJE (Al Jazeera English) is being made available in February free-of-charge as a ‘free preview’ to all of its affiliates in Canada.’ Al Jazeera English is available in 220 million households in more than 100 countries, including Canada, but is still not broadcast in most of the U.S.

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‘Will all of this result in a breakthrough — nationwide — in the United States? Will broadcast historians in the future record this as ‘Al Jazeera’s Moment’? Will American cable and satellite providers, nervous about controversy, listen to its potential audience?’ Burman wrote. ‘I certainly hope so.’

— Molly Hennessy-Fiske

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