— The Erimtan Angle —

In the Guardian, Esther Addley writes that Al Jazeera, the “Qatari-based broadcaster plans to launch [a] New York-based news channel on network it has bought for reported $500m”.[1]  The proliferation of news channels knows no bounds, whereas in the old days there was the BBC and then the rest, nowadays, quality news never was so abundantly available.

The Arab broadcaster bought Al Gore’s Current TV and now aims to crack the American market . . . going boldy where RT has already been treading for many years. Addley continues that the Arab broadcaster “has won respect and awards for its street-level reporting of the Arab spring protests, and attracted dedicated audiences in 130 countries, but when it comes to the most lucrative media market of all – the US – al-Jazeera has struggled to make an impact, reaching only a tiny minority of American households. On Wednesday [, 3 January], the Qatari-based broadcaster signalled its ambition to change that, paying a reported $500m (£300m) for the cable network Current TV, in a deal that could leave Current’s co-founder, former US vice-president Al Gore, $100m better off. Al-Jazeera said it planned to launch a New York-based news channel on the network, likely to be called al-Jazeera America, saying it hoped to “make a positive contribution to the news and information available in and about the United States”. The new channel will be separate from the existing al-Jazeera English, which broadcasts from Doha. For the cash-rich al-Jazeera, which only 4.7 million households in the US can currently watch, the benefits of the purchase are obvious. Though Current TV has struggled to attract significant audiences since its establishment as a liberal news and analysis channel in 2005, its distribution deals give it a potential reach of almost 60 million US homes”.[2]

The Guardian piece continues by listing the possible difficulties ahead: “Time Warner Cable Inc, the second biggest US cable company, immediately dropped Current TV on the news of its sale, without commenting on its reasons. Though Time Warner Cable’s chief executive, Glenn Britt, said last month that it would take a firmer line on renewing channels with low ratings, some media analysts saw the move as politically motivated. In a memo to staff on Wednesday [. 3 January], Joel Hyatt, Current TV’s co-founder and chief executive, said only that Time Warner ‘did not consent to the sale to al-Jazeera’. He said: ‘This is unfortunate, but I am confident that al-Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead’. Gore and Hyatt said in a statement: ‘Current Media was built based on a few key goals: to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling. Al-Jazeera, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us’. The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has praised al-Jazeera’s coverage of the Arab spring in the past, saying the network provided ‘real news’. But despite a campaign urging viewers to press their local distributors to carry al-Jazeera, the channel has until now been unable to extend its reach beyond a few isolated pockets of the US”.[3]

What will happen now???  Will the U.S. public become an Arab-loving nation overnight???  And what will Al Gore do now???  According to the Associated Press, ‘Al-Jazeera is spending $500 million to acquire Current TV . . . [thus becoming] a hefty payday for former Vice President Al Gore and cofounder Joel Hyatt, each of whom had 20 percent stakes in Current. Comcast had less than a 10 percent stake. Another major investor in Current TV was supermarket magnate and entertainment industry investor Ron Burkle, according to information service Capital IQ’.[4]  AP’s Ryan Nakashima adds that “the [new Al Jazeera America] channel will continue to be carried by DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast Corp., AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person spoke on condition of anonymity and wasn’t authorized to speak publicly”.[5]  Philip Seib, author of The Al Jazeera Effect, remarks realistically that “There are still people who will not watch it, who will say that it’s a ‘terrorist network’ [, adding that] Al Jazeera has to override that by providing quality news”.[6]

[1] Esther Addley, “Al-Jazeera aims to crack America with Current TV deal” The Guardian (03 January 2013). http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jan/03/al-jazeera-crack-america-current.

[2] Esther Addley, “Al-Jazeera aims to crack America with Current TV deal”.

[3] Esther Addley, “Al-Jazeera aims to crack America with Current TV deal”.

[4] Ryan Nakashima, “Al-Jazeera pays $500M for Al Gore’s Current TV” AP (04 January 2013). http://www.stltoday.com/news/national/al-jazeera-pays-m-for-al-gore-s-current-tv/article_ec3d6c4d-97df-5018-b877-c5b2b056fdc1.html.

[5] Ryan Nakashima, “Al-Jazeera pays $500M for Al Gore’s Current TV”.

[6] Brian Stelter, “Al Jazeera Seeks a U.S. Voice Where Gore Failed” ‘Media Decoder’, The New York Times (02 Jan 2013). http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/al-jazeera-said-to-be-acquiring-current-tv/?ref=todayspaper.


Comments on: "Al Jazeera America: A New Voice in the U.S. Media Bubble???" (1)

  1. Its a phenomenal news network and I cannot wait for AJ to officially get on the US cable network.

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