By Ray Fleming

THE remarkable round-the-clock television coverage of events in Egypt over the past ten days has depended to a large extent on the Al Jazeera Arabic and English-language networks whose headquarters are in Doha. The networks' reporters, cameramen and technical staff have worked under difficult conditions; their offices have been ransacked and equipment stolen and after some reporters were briefly arrested they no longer identify themselves on air. Notwithstanding these difficulties the coverage has continued from Cairo and Alexandria and other places almost without a break.

Audience numbers in the Middle East, where Al Jazeera has come to be known as the “Arabic CNN”, have increased considerably but the greatest benefit that the broadcaster may gain from its comprehensive coverage may be in the United States. Although the Al Jazeera channel has been available in English since 2006 it has made very little headway with American distributors. The Egyptian coverage which other news stations have taken and identified should go some way to persuading US station owners to rethink their hostility to an “Islamic channel”. In fact, Al -Jazeera's normal international news programming is balanced and often far ahead of other broadcasters in reporting and interpreting breaking news in the Middle East. It backs its rolling news with high quality documentaries and once a week hosts David Frost's hour long interview show, Frost Over the World.