I enjoy the TV news program Al Jazeera English via broadcast from the local channel in Chicago, WYCC. That
may be about to change has changed with today's rollout of Al Jazeera America. As you may have noticed from a certain presence on the web, Al Jazeera is about to launch a new channel called Al Jazeera America. According to the senior executive producer, Kim Bondy (formerly of CNN), it will be a bit like CBS Sunday Morning, NBC's Rock Center and Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
What could possibly go wrong?
Glenn Greenwald expressed this concern on a recent "On The Media" program (also linked above):
They seem to have this philosophy that in order to host a show you have to be a current or former CNN employee. which suggests that what they're really trying to do is replicate the CNN model of being this kind of uncontroversial, offend nobody, approach to the news.Al Jazeera America people responded to that to assure us that this will not happen. But I think we know what happens when products become americanized. And there are some obvious pressures on Al Jazeera to "prove" to some Americans that they aren't "a bunch of terrorists" in order to gain more viewers. Bigotry and ignorance are all the rage in the US these days and that could shut out a major share of the potential audience.
In a recent Guardian column Greenwald expands on some of the issues for Al Jazeera America:
Draining al Jazeera of its vibrancy and edginess and turning it into an imitation of CNN would be a way of trying to appease those negative views of the Jazeera brand. The target of such accommodation would be not only the parts of the US public which regard the network with suspicion, but at least as critically, cable carriers and corporate advertisers, whose willingness to be associated with the network is vital to its financial success, as well as US political officials, whom the network wants to appear regularly.For anyone who appreciates the critical need for independent and varied sources of news this is a big concern. The On The Media clip and Greenwald's column are both worth examining for further important details.
Because AJAM has not launched yet, debates over which course the new network has chosen have been mostly speculative. But one prominent Al Jazeera journalist, Marwan Bishara, the network's senior political analyst and host of "Empire", is insistent that the network has chosen the latter course of appeasement, fear and self-neutering.
Earlier this week, Bishara sent a scathing 1,800-word email to multiple Al Jazeera executives, directed particularly at those overseeing the new network. The missive, a copy of which was provided to the Guardian and whose receipt was confirmed by AJAM executives (published here), excoriates network officials for running away from the Jazeera brand due both to "the rush to act out of a personal ambition" and "to appease those who won't, or don't necessarily want to be, appeased". Such a re-branding effort, he wrote, "insult[s] the intelligence of the American people".
Can Al Jazeera hire a number of Americans, produce content in America and still have a unique voice? We'll see. But the signs don't look that great.
I'll will be contacting my local TV station to ask if they will be changing what they broadcast. I hope they stick to Al Jazeera English. AJE is far from perfect. They have pulled punches on major stories and their editorials on American issues are often off the mark. But they offer coverage in parts of the world no one else will visit and their unique perspective is always worth listening to. What I don't need is another CNN-like American channel.
By the way, did anyone else note the curious "diary" offered today by the "user" Sponsored Content Author and that comments were not allowed.
UPDATE #1: serendipityisabitch has enlightened me about the item I brought up in my last paragraph. I missed an earlier diary because I was scanning them for "Al Jazeera" and missed the sponsored content reference. That diary explains the unusual ad placement.
UPDATE #2: Al Jazeera has blocked out Al Jazeera English and is only offering Al Jazeera America. This is from their web site:
The Al Jazeera English live stream is no longer available in the U.S.UPDATE #3:
Starting tomorrow, August 20th, you’ll be able to watch more of the in-depth reporting and great content you love on the new Al Jazeera America television channel.
Click here to see if your local television provider will be carrying Al Jazeera America. If not, let your voice be heard and please request it today.
The company that provides content to my local channel, Mhz Worldview also can no longer distribute Al Jazeera English. I am really disappointed. I suspect that Al Jazeera marketing "experts" never read much about the Cocacola Classic incident. From Mhz Worldview website:
Al Jazeera English Departs MHz on August 20
On Tuesday, August 20, Al Jazeera English will cease its distribution of the channel in the United States. That means it’s newscasts will no longer be available on MHz Worldview nationally or as a full time channel on MHz Networks 5 in the Washington, DC metro area. The live streaming of AJE on their website will also not be available any longer in the U.S. either. Instead, Al Jazeera will be launching a new and different channel called Al Jazeera America, which is exclusively available on American cable (not thru sources like MHz.)
NEW PROGRAMS IN PLACE OF AJE CONTENT
Nationally (MHz Worldview) and online/apps/Google TV, Roku
• The 8 AM ET AJE Newscast will be replaced with Ethiopian TV News in English.
• The 7 PM ET AJE Newscast will be replaced with Debate (France 24), a live debate on the topic of the day, presented by François Picard.
Locally in Washington, DC
• Blue Ocean Network (BON) will launch in place of AJE on MHz Networks 5 in Washington, DC on digital channel 30.5, Comcast 275, Cox 474 and Verizon FiOS 452.
A FEW POINTS TO NOTE
- Al Jazeera English is no longer distributed in the United States, consequently making the channel unavailable to MHz Networks.
- This is a decision made by Al Jazeera, not MHz Networks.
- The elimination of the AJE channel in the U.S. was made by Al Jazeera so they could launch their new product, Al Jazeera America.
-Al Jazeera America is available on cable, satellite and telco where Current TV used to be available.
-Viewers should check with their local provider to confirm the availability of Al Jazeera America in the package you may subscribe to. You may need to upgrade services. To see where you can watch Al Jazeera America in your area, click here.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FROM AL JAZEERA
Additional information about the new Al Jazeera America is here.
CONTACTING AL JAZEERA WITH VIEWER COMMENTS MHz viewers can contact AJE here or their Facebook.
Additionally, MHz viewers can contact AJ America at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Catherine Castro +1-202-649-0475 Catherine.Castro@aljazeera.net
Naomi Bulochnikov +1-213-404-1364 Naomi.Bulochnikov@aljazeera.net
OR on the AJ America Facebook page.