Al Jazeera English is the first English-language 24-hour news and current affairs channel from the Middle East. It launched in November 2006 alongside the orginal Al Jazeera. The channel is based in Doha, Qatar, with broadcast hubs in Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington DC, plus 18 bureaux. It has a global satellite and cable audience of 80 million and employs 700 staff.
Dr Donald Hare named his company after the town in the Sierra Nevada where it was started in 1958. His big break came in 1964 when Grass Valley broadcast the presidential convention. Then in 1968 Grass Valley invented the vision mixer which became its key product. Thomson, a French company, bought Grass Valley in 2002.
Every TV studio needs a sleek set. Designer Simon Jago worked with Al Jazeera English’s director for creative design, Morgan Almeida, on all four of the news studios. Jago has designed sets in the US, Romania and Norway. Right now he’s busy on sets for a Greek news channel and a project for BBC Arabic news.
British lighting director David Evans’ love of photography lured him to a career in the lighting industry. So far it has taken him from Birmingham (as a trainee) to Kuala Lumpur as project leader at Measat, via Al Jazeera English’s studios. At the Doha studio, he created a 360-degree panoramic vision of lights floating above the desks.
Paul Mardon supplied Al Jazeera English with his Pulsar lights. He studied engineering at Cambridge University at the end of the 1960s, where he built his first models. Pulsar is still going strong with Mardon at the helm and more than 100 employees at the Cambridge factory. Italian company De Sisti supplied additional lighting.
Acoustician and architect Dennis Janson has worked on shows such as Late Night With David Letterman. His ideas work just as well in Al Jazeera’s news studio. Janson started the New York-based Janson Design Group in 1979 and has done other projects with Al Jazeera, Sky News, Pro TV in Bucharest and Sony Pictures in Tokyo.
William Charles Vinten would have been surprised to know that the film-printing machine and camera tripod company he started in 1910 in a small second-floor workshop in Soho, London, would become part of a global company with 1,500 staff and revenues of €330m nearly 100 years later.
Al Jazeera’s video wall comes from Belgian company Barco, which also produces digital cinema projectors, air-traffic-control displays and displays for the NASA space-shuttle simulator. Martin de Prycker, who has a PhD in computer sciences from the University of Ghent, has been Barco’s CEO since 2002. Barco employs 3,800 people.
In the cut-throat world of multinationals, it is surprising to hear of a CEO who has held on to his company for over 20 years. Michael Dell who founded the computer company Dell in Round Rock, Texas, is an exception. Today he employs 88,100 people worldwide and has reported revenues of €42bn in the past year.