November 16, 2006

Al Jazeera's first 24 hours

I wrote a couple of days ago about the launch of al-Jazeera English, the latest addition to the long list of international news channels.

But if its first 24 hours are anything to go by, it’ll soon be headed to the top of that list. Watching it makes you feel like this is what BBC World and CNN should be like. Perhaps half of its journalists are British, many of them having left the Beeb, and so it doesn’t feel like it’s a Qatar-based news channel.

But it does feel very international. Its first stories (after it had reported its own inception) were about Israel, Darfur, Iran, Zimbabwe and Brazil. My only criticism of its very first hour was that it was very scripted, and didn’t make much room for the reported tsunami off the Eastern coast of Japan.

Every time I dip into it, it’s clear they’ve invested in serious, reporter-led journalism which you only see glimpses of in Britain. And one of its greatest assets, which other news organisations should invest in more heavily, is having studios around the world, meaning European stories can be anchored from Europe, and Asian stories anchored from there too. CNN does this to an extent, although it feels like the only reason they do is to avoid paying anyone extra for night shifts.

The only shame about the channel is its accessibility. It’s available on Sky Digital and online, but the online option either lets you watch 15 minutes of poor quality video, or makes you pay for it. Not a good idea for a channel struggling to get into people’s homes.

Having said that, al-Jazeera’s approach is clearly going to leave some of its larger competitors in its wake over the coming months as its unique approach to internationalism leaves others looking too Westernised.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. The Times today ran a fairly chatty but interesting review of the channel’s first 24 hours:,,14936-2455088,00.html.

    16 Nov 2006, 16:19

  2. Jim Zackey

    22 February marks the first 100 days since the launch of Al Jazeera English. Though such a period is short to judge an evolving media institution, it does allow for availing this practice by passing on some quick assessments to highlight some noteworthy trends visible in these early days.

    AJE can take pride in the diversity of its staff from varied ethnic, geographic and cultural backgrounds. This in itself is a commendable achievement that perhaps no other media could accomplish so early on.

    16 Feb 2007, 10:56

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