Al-Jazeera in uphill battle for viewers: Reality dismisses surveys

Editorial line or political agenda?

DOHA - Al-Jazeera announced on Wednesday that it is still the Middle East and North Africa's most-watched Arabic-language television channel, in a time when a number of studies are showing that the Qatar-based broadcaster is losing audience shares in Arab countries.
In a press release, Al-Jazeera said that an audience survey carried out by Ipsos and Sigma in the first quarter showed that its “daily viewership ... was 34 percent higher than all the other pan-Arab channels combined."
The research was conducted in 21 countries on viewers over age 15 and applies only to the news channel, excluding sports, documentary and children's channels, as well as Al-Jazeera Live, according to the press release.
Some observers have questioned the optimistic figures reported by the channel, contending that they lack credibility. They noted that, in recent years, Ipsos had been facing much criticism about the accuracy of its surveys.
Saudi daily newspaper "Al-Riyadh" accused Ipsos last year of counterfeiting and conducting surveys "on request” and in pursuit of profit, after the private research think-tank released a study on the distribution of Saudi newspapers, in which it gave Al-Riyadh second position.
The new Al-Jazeera announcement comes following repeated accusations of being biased, with critics accusing it of backing Islamists who subsequently came to power in Arab Spring countries.
According to a US study, Al-Jazeera's poor professional and moral conduct reduced its worldwide viewership from 43 million viewers per day to around 6 million.
Adel Iskandar, a professor of communication at Georgetown University and co-author of a 2002 book on the Qatar-based news organization said earlier that the network had lost credibility among Arabic-speaking audiences for its coverage of the Syria crisis.
"Al-Jazeera made a name for itself doing investigative reporting but has lost a large amount of its audience in the Syrian conflict by being seen an extension of the Qatari foreign ministry," he said.
With massive resources from gas-rich Qatar, Al-Jazeera has gained momentum in the Arabic-language media landscape since its foundation in 1996.
It is now preparing to launch Al-Jazeera America as well as a French channel.