Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Al Jazeera International launches today, though no US cable providers have signed on to distribute it. The Washington Post gives a good summary of the new outlet's operations:

In some respects, Al Jazeera English will be worlds apart from its established, decade-old sibling. Al-Jazeera focuses primarily on news of the Middle East, for an audience of mostly Arabic-speaking Muslims. AJE will have broader horizons, aiming to draw a billion-plus English speakers from Madagascar to Maine -- for Muslims, yes, but also for anyone else who wants another perspective on the day's news.

In other words, AJE -- based in the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar -- is hoping to become the first non-Western source to challenge the global info-supremacy of CNN and the BBC. This, although it's not yet available over broadcast frequencies in the United States.

AJE has established four news hubs -- in Washington, Qatar, London and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- around which its 24-hour broadcast will revolve. It also has positioned many of its 500-plus journalists outside of traditional news centers in Europe and North America, in a necklace of bureaus spanning Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East...

While I've had my qualms with the Arabic version's "teething problems" and tendency to blur the lines between news and editorial, I think that having a non-western 24 hour news outlet can only be a good thing. I spoke with Dave Marash (formerly of ABC and now an anchor for the channel) several months ago as they were ramping up, and tend to agree with his assessment of the possibilities for a wider array of coverage and perspectives, and as he bluntly puts it, "to be freed of the blonde-of-the-month story" that so many US cable news channels find themselves beholden to for ratings.

The channel has hired some very credible Western journalists-- Sir David Frost, Riz Kahn (formerly of CNN and BBC), and perhaps most notably, Josh Rushing, the public affairs officer featured prominently in Control Room, who will report on military affairs. It will be interesting to watch how the channel unfolds. For those of you in the US, you can watch the channel online here.


Dario said...

This just aired on the Arabic version of Al Jazeera on October 31.
See more clips here.

Of course you have to trust that Memri translates these things right - but for one, I think that a lot of things out of the subtitles can be heard in their speaking, and also, a friend of mine did an internship there once and reassured me they're trustable...

While I'm also for an alternative angle, I don't think Al Jazeera provides one.

cjn said...

i think it is necessary to make a big distinction between arabic al jaz and al jaz international. only time will tell, however.