Al Jazeera American Flag

Fox Hunting – Al Jazeera America launches in 2013

Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing propaganda machine, the farcical Fox News Channel, has infected U.S. media for 17 years. That’s 1 year for every million ardent neo-conservatives that tune in for their daily ideological fix. Today Fox News has become an angry caricature of itself, plugging that Sisyphus of morons Bill O’Reilly whilst spending millions of dollars on PR campaigns to convince viewers of the ‘Fair and Balanced’ reporting on offer.

Fox News executive Roger Alies (media guru for Nixon, Reagan, and Bush Snr.) will not be overly happy to learn then that Johnny-foreigner news group, Qatar-based al Jazeera Network, and its international channel al Jazeera English, will be vastly expanding their U.S. operations in 2013:

“Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the U.S., as well as increase our news-gathering and reporting efforts in America. We look forward to working together with our new cable and satellite partners to serve our new audiences across the U.S.”  - Ahmed bin Jassim al Thani, al Jazeera Director General

Despite a growing international reputation and wide critical acclaim arising from Al Jazeera English picking up over 20 separate press awards in 2012, for exceptional ground reporting and international coverage of Haiti’s humanitarian crisis and the ongoing political upheavals of the Arab Spring, al Jazeera has found it difficult to penetrate the U.S. market. Particularly in relation to network share and media distribution rights. Al Jazeera English only broadcasts in a handful of U.S. cities, namely Washington DC and New York. Yet U.S. subscribers have continued to rise, drawing this commentary from Hillary Clinton:

“Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the U.S. because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock. Instead of a million commercials, arguments between talking heads, and the kind of stuff we do on our ‘news’, which is not particularly informative” – Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

Al Jazeera’s hitherto availability handicap will change dramatically with the recent purchase of Current TV. Founded in 2002 by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, Current TV has struggled with poor ratings, but the $500m acquisition of Current by al Jazeera provides just the distribution platform necessary to launch a new, U.S specific, al Jazeera channel in 2013.

‘Al Jazeera America’ will be available in almost 60 million homes across the U.S. The channel will still feature reports from al Jazeera English, although it is estimated that 70% of its programming and content will originate from inside the U.S. In addition to the refreshing injection of credible journalism into U.S. media-scape, it will significantly increase American staff numbers, adding several new bureaus to the Channels portfolio, including Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. Yet with Time Warner dropping Current after learning of the al Jazeera deal and lingering questions over editorial independence, how the once dubbed “terrorist network” will be received in the U.S. remains to be seen… All the same, I’m happy to see this Fox hunt begin!

[hr] 

2 thoughts on “Fox Hunting – Al Jazeera America launches in 2013”

  1. I agree with Henry, that any diversification and expansion of the US media landscape (particularly in the direction of ‘real news’) is a positive development. However, somewhat in line with his last paragraph I’m skeptical that the reception will be warm. My first question is, will people be able to get it in their homes (or will more TV providers go the direction of Time Warner)? My second is, will people watch? Just because a better alternative exists doesn’t mean people will break their old habits of news consumption.

  2. You’re right, I’m sure this is a real concern of al Thani. Although US viewers have steadily increased since 2001 (AJE was originally the only ‘on the ground’ news network to cover the war in Afghanistan via their field office) and I hope this trend will continue, AJA will have to ride the wave of character assassination which will no doubt ensue, answer questions about their independence, whilst marketing themselves sensibly and maintaining credibility. No small task for sure.

Leave a Reply