All 2 entries tagged Al Jazeera English

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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.


November 14, 2006

Al Jazeera looks West

Al Jazeera LogoTomorrow sees the launch of “Al Jazeera English”, the international offshoot of the best known Middle Eastern broadcaster.

It’s been a rocky launch and has taken them a year longer than planned, causing untold costs as many of their staff were hired back in 2005. They’ve lost their distributor in the United States and today they announced a last-minute rebrand. They were originally to be known as Al Jazeera International, but it was noted the Arabic version isn’t exactly domestic in its outlook.

I’m looking forward to the channel launching though. AJE, as I’m sure it will be known, could well get similar viewers to CNN, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it beating BBC World fairly soon. Their only problem might be distribution in hotels where CNN and the BBC have a long history of dominance. But they’re well resourced and have poached a number of well-known faces from the BBC and elsewhere – most notably the Beeb’s Darren Jordon and Rageh Omaar.

Al Jazeera’s been criticised many times in the past for being too close to terrorism, but much of the time it’s little more than a caricature. All I can suggest is that people turn to Sky channel 514 tomorrow or watch online, and see for themselves.


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