Nov 15, 2006

Aljazeera English ... finally

Aljazeera English is officially on air, English speakers all over the world can finally see the famous Aljazeera for themselves.

Aljazeera will be broadcasting mainly from Doha but also from Malaysia, London and Washington 12 hours then going 24hrs on Jan 07. It will predictably have a "southern" focus on the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In its first day, Aljazeera had reports from Palestine, Darfur, Iran, DR Congo and Zimbabwe wonderfully setting the scene what is to come. The reports from DR Congo elections was great and there an exclusive interview with Kabila, I didn't expect the guy to be that articulate. But the report from Zimbabwe was more compelling with massive waiting line for oil, sometime for a week.

The interviews today (and the next couple of days) is mesmerizing, some of the interviewees are Ismail Haniyeh, Joseph Kabila, Shimon Peres , Richard Haas, Tony Blair (Frost on Friday), Muhammad Yunus ... and the list continues.

This is what the BBC said about the launch:
A screen graphic with a clock ticking down the minutes gave way to a photo montage of the biggest news stories of recent years, including 9/11.

Al-Jazeera in Arabic is known for its forthright style, frank journalism and willingness to discuss taboo issues.

This has made it a thorn in the side of governments from Washington to Riyadh, says the BBC's Ian Pannell in Cairo.

We will be getting our reaction, first and foremost, from the Middle East
Felicity Barr, presenter

After the opening credits, presenters Shiulie Ghosh and Sami Zeidan ushered in the new channel, saying it would be "setting the news agenda".

"It's November 15th, a new era in television news."

The channel then went to images of correspondents in various locations including Gaza then Sudan's Darfur region, followed by Iran and Zimbabwe.

As it went on air, the channel had to contend with a breaking news story on a tsunami expected to hit Russia and northern Japan.
Ethan Zuckerman (and other bloggers) welcomed Aljazeera English, he says:
I feel strongly that Al Jazeera International is a good thing. I think a lot of the criticism Al Jazeera’s Arabic service receives are, frankly, off the mark, and more a reflection of Western news coverage of Jazeera than the truth of what’s on the network. My experiences in Doha were of a network determined to bring debate to every possible issue, going out of their way to put people who disagree with one another on camera in the hopes of knocking sparks. It’s worth remembering that Al-J isn’t just a thorn in the side of the Bush administration - they drive the Saudis nuts as well.
Aljazeera English was also relaunched its website which has twostreaming video and RSS feeds.

Technocrati Tags: Aljazeera, Middle East


houstonmacbro said...

i tried to check it out yesterday online but either my mac is too slow or i don't have the right codecs installed yet, so it didn't play correctly

some of the reporters looked very eager and all in all it looks like the start of an interesting alternative to american-based news.

Black River Eagle said...

I am pasting the full text from an article about the Aljazeera English network launch in North America published on November 8th to the USC Public Dimplomay blog. I think that you might find this op-ed by Alvin Snyder both useful and interesting.

USC Public Diplomacy Blog

NOV 8, 2006 - 12:15PM PDT
Posted by Alvin Snyder

In what can only be described as anti-climactic, Al Jazeera International is starting its English channel broadcasts to North America November 15 with a whimper, rather than the desired flourish. After failing to meet several self-appointed inaugural air dates over the past year, the controversial Arabic TV channel kicked off its service to the U.S. via bottom-tier, off-the-beaten-track delivery services on which Al Jazeera International's audience in America will be miniscule to start.

The satellite service Globecast, owned by France Telecom, has added Al Jazeera English to its menu of some 150 overseas channels on its program menu, watched mainly by ex-patriots living in the U.S. who want to view programs from their native lands. For those not already subscribing to Globecast who wish to watch Al Jazeera English and other channels, the one-time cost for the program package is about $200., plus the cost of the receiver dish and installation, about an additional $200-$300. Other carriers also offering their own Al Jazeera English packages include relatively unknown and smaller program providers such as Fision, the on-line service Jump TV, and VDC, a Houston, Texas company.

In what can only be described as anti-climactic, Al Jazeera International announced it will begin its broadcasts to North America November 15. After failing to meet several self-appointed inaugural air dates over the past year, the controversial Arabic TV channel is scheduled to kick off its service by showcasing an exclusive interview with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sir David Frost's new breakfast show.

Major carriers like a Cox Cable, or a satellite-delivered DirecTV, did not wish to deliver Al Jazeera International into America's TV households. But when or if the channel is given the opportunity to reach and touch Americans in their living rooms, can Al Jazeera eventually make a go of it in the world's most competitive commercial marketplace?

One likely scenario is that Al Jazeera will start out to show prospective U.S. carriers, which obviously have been reluctant to do business with the network, that it has a different face for North America than it does for the Middle East, and does not intend to damage any provider's integrity. It would not, for example, be the go-to channel for the terrorist video pronouncements and news releases which helped the parent Arabic regional channel gain considerable notoriety.

Executives at Al Jazeera's home base in the Persian Gulf country of Qatar contend that the network's hard-earned brand will be maintained for its English off-spring. But those in front-line management positions for the international channel -- top-heavy with British and American electronic journalists -- envision an Al Jazeera that offers something closer to a BBC, but certainly not an "Al Jazeera light," as some critics have suggested it is likely to become.

Nonetheless, broadcast journalists, both domestic and international, these days do find themselves compromising what they report to gain the maximum number of viewers.

In the highly competitive U.S. marketplace, for example, there is more emphasis than ever on showcasing an anchor with star power and charisma, and arguably less emphasis on field reportage. Might the model of the new Al Jazeera emerge likewise, with the old Middle East brand taking a back seat to an attractive, glib anchor, who shows up well in focus groups?

Will TV viewers in America really want to follow the news as broadcast from the other side of the world, as the Al Jazeera International business plan would have it, from its home-based newsroom in Doha, Qatar in the Persian Gulf, to one of the four anchor locations in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and to London and across the pond to Washington and beyond? Or would viewers rather hear about the latest on the U.S. congressman who carried his tutorial of male interns to the extreme, or gauge for themselves whether Michael J. Fox over-acted on the issue of stem cell research, or get the latest about the "M" word (macaca) that emerged in the Virginia senatorial race?

Competition for audience share will most likely alter the heady pre-conceived visions in Al Jazeera International's business plan, resulting in a new service that won't resemble either Al Jazeera's flagship or the BBC.

The make-or-break imperative in Al Jazeera International's vision is to make a profit through the sale of commercials. Therefore it will need to focus on the kind of news coverage mentioned above, leaving the sun to streak alone across the globe from Kuala Lumpur to Washington.

Black River Eagle said...

Sorry. That should read USC Public Diplomacy Blog. Diplomacy. D-I-P-L-O-M-A-C-Y...:-)

Checkout the USC Center on Public Diplomacy website while you're at it. Lot's of good stuff there.

Abdurahman Warsame said...


Thanks, I think you need a realplayer, may be there's payment involved. Let me ask around.

Abdurahman Warsame said...

Black River Eagle,

Thank you so much, that was a very thoughtful piece. So far they've proven that they will concentrate on field reporting. I was watching yesterday a report from DR Congo, and the reporter went into some illegal mines and found people working there in the worst conditions possible.

It will be interesting to see how, over time, Aljazeera English will be received in America and the rest of the world. I think it will embraced in in Asia and Africa and US will continue to be suspicious for at least few more months/years. But as the article said, it will depend largely on how well does Aljazeera cover the US, after all, they've a big broadcast center.

I'll pass this article on, thanks mate

Black River Eagle said...

You are very welcome. I think that Aljazeera may find a niche market in the United States and Canada over the long run, but as the article states the North American media markets are fiercely competitive.

A problem with finding U.S. advertising customers will be Aljazeera's controversial coverage of various conflicts and hotbutton issues in the Middle East. I can imagine that several U.S. companies simply will not risk having their name associated with the Aljazeera network at this time.

When Aljazeera is doing really good coverage of stories on the African continent, please send me a Heads Up notice. Where can I find that video report on the illegal mining and child labor practices down in the DRC? Are they publishing video reports to their English language website?

Abdurahman Warsame said...

Here is a report from Darfur by the "gorgeous" Haru Matasa:

The website is still limited, many of the fantastic stories from Sudan, Zimbabwe and DR Congo aren't on the web.

From Zimbabwe, there was reports about white farmers, people crossing to South Africa (hundreds daily) and on food and petrol shortage.

I was watching yesterday a report from DR Congo about gold mining, and the reporter goes into an illegal mine at night, great. I'll try to figure out how to get these reports published.

Black River Eagle said...

Have you seen the BBC News article about African bloggers weighing-in on the Aljazeera English network launch? You've made the MSM Bigtime Abdu because your blog is mentioned right alongside several others. Unfortunately the BBC News writer failed to provide a link to your blog but you may get a spike in traffic over the next week and gain some new readers from the honorable mention. Check it out for yourself at the following URL:

African bloggers verdict on al-Jazeera, Nov 17, 2006

Black River Eagle said...

The link to the Aljazeera report on Darfur takes me to The sub-Saharan Roundtable blog post about Robert Mugabe. Can you check that link to the recent Aljazeera video news report from Darfur again and re-post the correct URL? Thanks.

Abdurahman Warsame said...

Thanks for the alert, that's fantastic, it's really good to know that BBC is actually reading African blogs. Unless there is a link, I don't there will much traffic directed this way.

Sorry about the link, here you go:

Mauritania has oil and they're doing a lot of exploration, you can find more info here:

I was speaking today to a Mauritain colleague and he was telling about the ecotourism but also some interesting stuff about the election and the role of tribalism. I'll post some more on that, and some of his poems sometime.

Mauritanians are Arab and African, nothing contradictory about that. Arabs are not an ethnic group; they don't look the same, or have the same religion or even culture, the only thing they share is the language. Unfortunately, the image people have is of some people that are the same, not true. Mauritanians - all of them - are therefore Arabs because Arabic is their language. In fact, Mauritania has more poets than any othe Arab country.

In the case of Sudan for example Arab is used as an ethnic group to differentiate from others and that's a local thing. To most people, there's no difference between Sudanese in the north and those in west.