Inside Al Jazeera America

Friday, August 16, 2013


The Al Jazeera media network is about to launch a new American channel, but limited cable carriage and negative perceptions about the Al Jazeera name might make it difficult to attract viewers. OTM producer Sarah Abdurrahman goes inside Al Jazeera America to find out how the new channel is trying to break into the US media market.


Ehab Al Shihabi, Kim Bondy, Paul Eedle, Glenn Greenwald, Blake Hounshell, Kate O'Brian and Ali Velshi

Produced by:

Sarah Abdurrahman

Comments [10]

Abdul Hakim Bashimi from Afghanistan

With my utmost respects I am writing this letter to Mr. President Obama and Senators, Congressmen, Congresswomen and other respected Departments of USA.
I am one of the Afghan interpreters which I got (SIV COM-LOR) denial for no reason from respected US embassy in Kabul Afghanistan.
Mr, President Obama I am a father,please save my life and the lives of Afghan and Iraqi interpreters.
Once in Cairo you said in your statement that saving a life is saving all humankind, so after Almighty God we trust and believe in you Mr, President Obama.please do not break our hopes.
Nobody want to take the Death responsibility by giving a job to the interpreters, because everybody know that interpreters are having endangered life and they are being threatened to Death by insurgents and their Criminal elements. The Neighboring countries are not welcoming or accepting us.
All the times, we the interpreters are being chased by insurgents and their Criminal elements.
I humbly request you about the extension, expansion, revision of ( SIV-COM) Program and the reconsideration of Denied and Revoked cases of Com-Lor from ( SIV-COM) Program.
Please help us and save the lives.
(Sincerely yours ) Abdul Hakim Bashimi
Note; for more information about me please contact US embassy in Kabul Afghanistan.
My Cell phone# 0093799032870 and 0093704841482
Right now my siv case is running in respected US embassy in Kabul Afghanistan.
My Siv intake case number is 2013273004.
Or please contact; about this
RE: NVCSIV2013273004 Attn Pat.
Note; Attention for Respected US house of representatives. Sorry, for emailing you it was needed Zip code on your( Contact ) tab for your “email me” tab to complete Application Form, so I could not found the Zip code from US postal services Website. so that,s why I am emailing you on your (Request a meeting)tab. I hope that my letter to be considered.

Nov. 04 2013 11:23 AM
Dale Lature

this "sounds" like it is the sound from a video. Is this a residue of the "No streaming" approach you seem to be taking to getting on our televisions? If you give in to the Cable Cos oppostion to live News coverage on the Net, you will lose. And you'll lose your initial supporters who were instrumental in getting American Cable Cos to pay attention. We THOUGHT you were going to be groundbreaking. This is a disappointing caving in to the staunchly backward old media powers that will find themselves on the outside looking in to the extent that they deny what's coming. Don't fall into that trap, or you'll be just one of them.

Aug. 20 2013 12:34 PM

I remember a number of years ago, around the beginning of the Iraq war, I'd occasionally check Al-Jazerra English to see what kinds of stories they were doing. There were times when their articles would get on my nerves. I remember stories where they would insert stuff like "American troops are becoming increasingly violent against civilians" and stuff like that. At times, it seemed like they were trying to persuade Iraqis to mount an armed insurrection against US troops there.

I also watched the movie "The Control Room" (2004) about Al-Jazeera. There were a few points in that movie where the bias of the reporters was clear. Pretty much all the reporters were against the US invasion and they were rooting against the US. There was one point in the movie, where Iraqis were running behind American tanks and then tearing down a statue of Saddam Hussein. Almost all the reporters at Al-Jazeera were in shock. They quickly came up with a conspiracy theory: the US was paying money to Iraqis in order to stage the whole thing. The fact that it quickly became a popular explanation in the news room (absent any evidence to support it) tells you something about the biases of Al-Jazeera's reporting staff.

There was another point in the movie where one reporter had booked an American professor who would say a lot of bad stuff about the US (he was a little similar to Noam Chomsky). The reporter was giddy at the prospect of having some well-educated American say nasty things about the US. They were going to give him an hour (or something) worth of air-time to simply sit in front of a camera and rant about the US. The manager of Al-Jazeera said it would make bad TV because it would just be one guy talking smack about the US, with no counterpoint. I suppose there's a glimmer of hope in the fact that the manager thought it would make bad TV, but the fact that the low-level reporter was so happy to have that guy on their TV channel tells you something about the bias of their reporters.

I understand that you can never completely get away from a biased news report, but one should aim for lesser bias.

In short, my experiences with Al-Jazeera haven't been very positive.

Aug. 20 2013 12:30 PM
lindsay from Texas

Kudos to the reporter for doing such thorough reporting. But this story was way too long. It kept circling around to the same points over and over again with a repetitive format of presenting both the boosters and the critique. Maybe it ended up with a satisfying summary, but I couldn't get that far in the podcast. All good and interesting points about the introduction of a huge new news channel into America, but it could have been done a lot better in 4 - 6 minutes.

Aug. 20 2013 10:37 AM

I thought it was curious that you didn't reach out to Dave Marash for this story. He joined Al Jazeera and then left - you hailed his joining the network but his departure... not so much. It would have been good to hear his voice on what to look for.

You also made noting of the fact of the network's other sources of funding - our cable bills! Being intentionally anachronistic, would consumers have funded the BBC America during the Revolutionary war just so that the could have held onto their other media sources? We need to be able to un-bundle our cable bills now... Bob would be for that, right?

Aug. 20 2013 10:22 AM
Ramesh from NY

I am not sure Americans want serious News channel. Popular opinion is every activity in life has to be of 'funny' kind. News may not always fit this scheme. We know that serious analysis is beyond the scope of Colbert show.

Availability and popularity of 'BBC World Service TV' tells something about nature of TV news media in US. After coming to US I learnt that cable channels do not carry 'BBC World Service' and that was a shock to me. 'BBC World Service TV' is easily available in Asia.

Aug. 19 2013 11:51 PM
primetime from DC

I will be looking for the story--lengthy and well sourced--about Huma Abedin's Muslim Brotherhood ties. They have been verified and they are there and an old style network would cover it...I will be looking for a long time I warrant. I agree with Robert, Birck and listener--and it is laughable that Qatar will have NO of the voices said, "it is a state owned network"...and that says it all. Remember how the BBC kept Churchill off the airwaves for years in the 1930's.

Aug. 19 2013 02:41 PM
Birck from Philly

I am skeptical of Al-Jazeera's objectivity. About 7 years ago they started, I think, an online English-language Al-Jazeera newspaper, a la The Daily Beast. I was interested, so I kept track of what they were reporting and how they reported it, comparing it all with the BBC's treatment. At that time, beheadings and kidnappings in Iraq were common. One current case on the boil involved a western female NGO official who had been running something pretty benevolent-an orphanage, maybe, and she had been kidnapped by some murderous jihadi organization who had sent out the usual offers of trading her for imprisoned warriors. The offer was ignored. Then I heard on the BBC that she had been beheaded. I heard not one word from Al-Jazeera. I scanned their newsletter for a week, hoping to get their take on it. Nothing. They ignored the story. I suppose they have a right to cover what stories they want to cover, but a lapse-or a choice-like that one leaves me unconvinced that I'm going to hear any "truth" from Al-Jazeera.

Aug. 18 2013 11:54 AM

Since AL Jazeera will certainly attract some of the "progressive" audience and staff from the New York media community there seems to be a tone of sibling rivalry to this new rich kid on the block.
"My government / billionaire daddy is better than your government / billionaire daddy".

One should also remember the strange bedfellows which conceived the new kid in this neighborhood.
How many millions of dollars did environmentalist superhero Al Gore make from selling his socially progressive news outlet to the theocratic autocracy of oil rich Qatar? Quite a remarkable display of hypocrisy from this secular saint of progressive politics who many in the media believe should be a former President by now.

Insulting "the intelligence of the American people" is something progressive politicians and media now almost boast about and their supporters have somehow been conditioned to admire them for their brazen display of contempt and hubris.

Obligatory FOX bashing may be an easy pastime for petulant elites in the media but it will be interesting to see how they carefully deal with the exotic Al Jazeera if it emerges as a redoubtable fixture in the American media landscape.

Aug. 17 2013 09:04 PM
Robert from New York

Having watched, and appreciated, Al Jazeera English, I fear most seeing a channel that caters too much to US tastes. Your report leaves me pessimistic in that regard. What has been so impressive about Al Jazeera English is how DIFFERENT it is from US channels. Let's hope that they pleasantly surprise me, or at least leave me a way to continue seeing the international channel.

Aug. 17 2013 07:28 PM

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