1 January 1999, was Al Jazeera's first day of 24-hour broadcasting. Employment had more than tripled in one year to 500 employees. The agency had bureaux at a dozen sites as far away as EU and Russia. Its annual budget was estimated at about US$25 million at the time. However controversial, Al Jazeera was rapidly becoming one of the most influential news agencies in the whole region. Eager for news beyond the official versions of events, Arabs became dedicated viewers. A 2000 estimate pegged nightly viewership at 35 million, ranking Al Jazeera first in the Arab world, over the Saudi Arabia-sponsored Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) and London's Arab News Network (ANN). There were about 70 satellite or terrestrial channels being broadcast to the Middle East, most of them in Arabic. Al Jazeera launched a free Arabic-language web site in January 2001. In addition, the TV feed was soon available in the United Kingdom for the first time via British Sky Broadcasting.
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Al Jazeera came to the attention of many in the West during the hunt for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban in Afghanistan after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States. It aired videos it received from Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, deeming new footage of the world's most wanted fugitives to be newsworthy. Some criticized the network for giving a voice to terrorists". Al Jazeera's Washington, D.C., bureau chief, Hafez al-Mirazi, compared the situation to that of the Unabomber's messages in The New York Times. The network said it had been given the tapes because it had a large Arab audience. Many other TV networks were eager to acquire the same footage. CNN International had exclusive rights to it for six hours before other networks could broadcast, a provision that was broken by the others on at least one controversial occasion. Prime Minister Tony Blair soon appeared on an Al Jazeera talk show on 14 November 2001, to state Britain's case for pursuing the Taliban into Afghanistan. Al Jazeera's prominence rose during the war in Afghanistan because it had opened a bureau in Kabul before the war began. This gave it better access for videotaping events than other networks, which bought Al Jazeera's footage, sometimes for as much as $250,000. The Kabul office was destroyed by United States bombs in 2001. Looking to stay ahead of possible future conflicts, Al Jazeera then opened bureaux in other troubled spots. The network remained dependent on government support in 2002, with a budget of US$40 million and ad revenues of about US$8 million. It also took in fees for sharing its news feed with other networks. It had an estimated 45 million viewers around the world. Al Jazeera soon had to contend with a new rival, Al Arabiya, a venture of the Middle East Broadcasting Center, which was set up in nearby Dubai with Saudi financial backing. On 21 May 2003, Al Jazeera broadcast a three-minute clip from a tape that was obtained from Al Qaeda. The tape about Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian physician and the intellectual supporter of Al Qaeda. In the tape, Zawahiri mentioned the 11 September attack and more terrorism against the Western countries saying that "The Crusaders and Jews understand only the language of killing and blood. They can only be persuaded through returning coffins, devastated interests, burning towers and collapsed economies." In September 2003, Tayseer Allouni, the Al Jazeera journalist who was tasked to interview Osama bin Ladin several weeks later the 11 September attack was arrested by Spanish government agency. Allouni was accused of being close to Al Qaeda, eventually was found guilty, and sentenced to seven years of house arrest. In October 2003, the managing editor of the Saudi newspaper Arab News, John R. Bradley accounted that the Bush administration had told the Qatari government that "If Al Jazeera failed to reconsider its news context, the US would, in turn, have to consider its relation with Qatar."
With the breakup of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe, VOA added many additional language services to reach those areas. This decade was marked by the additions of Tibetan, Kurdish (to Iran and Iraq), Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, Macedonian, and Rwanda-Rundi language services. In 1993, the Clinton administration advised cutting funding for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty as it was felt post-Cold War information and influence was not needed in Europe. This plan was not well received, and he then proposed the compromise of the International Broadcasting Act. The Broadcasting Board of Governors was established and took control from the Board for International Broadcasters which previously oversaw funding for RFE/RL. In 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the International Broadcasting Act into law. This law established the International Broadcasting Bureau as a part of the U.S. Information Agency and created the Broadcasting Board of Governors with oversight authority. In 1998, the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act was signed into law and mandated that BBG become an independent federal agency as of October 1, 1999. This act also abolished the U.S.I.A. and merged most of its functions with those of the State Department. In 1994, Voice of America became the first broadcast-news organization to offer continuously updated programs on the Internet.