Posted by: sean | November 15, 2006

Al Jazeera in English (but not in America)

Today Al Jazeera will launch its English-language cable channel. With over 80 million households ready to receive the channel, Al Jazeera English has more than doubled their goal of 40 million. Unfortunately, none of those households are American, since so far, zero cable providers have agreed to broadcast Al Jazeera English, and only one satellite dish company is offering the channel — at an extra fee, at that. According to Comcast, these decisions are made on purely financial, and not political, grounds.

This is really disappointing, because the US market could use a different point of view and more international news. Of course, a less American-centric point of view would, in my view, be helpful for the US, but that would be second to what is, to my mind, the main offering of Al Jazeera: more international news.

In addition to the 42 bureaus of the Arabic version of Al Jazeera, the English channel will have 4 broadcast centers and 20 support bureaus:

Broadcast Centers:
Kuala Lumpur

Supporting Bureaus
Middle East: Cairo, Beirut, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza
Africa: Abidjan, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Harare
Asia and Australia: Beijing, Delhi, Islamabad, Jakarta, Manila and Sydney
Americas: Buenos Aires, Caracas and New York
Europe: Athens and Moscow

This amount of international coverage is colossal, and would benefit the American population immensely, particularly as far as African coverage is concerned. CNN, for example, has only 2 bureaus (Lagos and Nairobi) on the continent (excluding Cairo, which I’ve counted in the Middle East for both channels).

In addition to this meaty international coverage, Al Jazeera English will be featuring some familiar faces in the form of newscasters formerly from the BBC, CNN and CBS, among others. And they will even have a former US marine, Josh Rushing, as one of their commentators.

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