Al Jazeera to be privatized?

From Michael Young:

A decree from Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani “said that Al Jazeera would be converted to a privately owned ‘company of participation,’ which one source said meant it would probably “be owned by shareholders in the Arab world.” Al Jazeera’s budget last year was $120 million, including a subsidy of $40-50 million from the Qatari government. An Al-Jazeera spokesman said a reason for the deficit “was that businesses were afraid to advertise because of criticism they might get from Arab governments and the United States.”

Is it really surprising that Al-Jazeera might scare off advertisers? Sure the station gets criticism from governments, but it also catches a lot of flack from other journalists and from viewers all over the world. Here’s an example from an Egyptian blogger:

An Iraqi living in London wrote that he heard noises as he was casting his vote in a polling station in the United Kingdom. He turned around and saw Iraqi voters kicking Al Jazeera’s crew out of the premise. The crew apparently came to cover the elections in this polling station. Upon seeing the channel’s logo on the cameras, several Iraqis got angry and forced the crew to leave the area. He also said that he heard the same incident happen in Holland as well.

Could this be the market working to improve Al-Jazeera’s journalistic practices? Get the whole scoop from Michael Young here.