When Al Jazeera launched its English language television news network on November 15, 2006, it was billed as an effort "to reverse the information flow from South to North and to provide a voice to under-reported regions around the world.”
“[It] is a new force in the global English-speaking media with the ability to seek out and cover different perspectives of news,” the Doha, Qatar-based network said in a statement, which was excerpted in the English-language Egyptian magazine Monday Morning .
Linda S. Heard, described as "a specialist writer on Middle East affairs" notes that Al Jazeera is "the first English-language news channel head-quartered in the Middle East or Gulf. She asked:
What can Al Jazeera in English offer in terms of programming to compete with CNN, the BBC or Sky News? Does it deliver a Pan-Arab perspective like its long-established sister network? Or will it be watered down to suit a broader Western audience? [For her answer, see "A Qatari child is born"].
As Monday Morning
reported, Al-Jazeera will carryout its mission from "four regional broadcasting centers in Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington, in addition to 20 other bureaus. It will also benefit from access to the facilities of its Arabic mother-channel." Monday Morning
quoted "network general director Wadah Khanfar
" as saying:
Launching the English channel offers the chance to reach out to a new audience that is used to hearing the name of Al-Jazeera without being able to watch it or to understand its language.
Khanfar pledged “impartial and balanced” news coverage, according to Monday Morning
The magazine quotes an Arab media analyst, who allegedly requested anonymity, as telling reporters:
The worldwide broadcasting landscape is at a turning point with the launch of Al-Jazeera International, because this is the first time a media organization in the third world seeks a universal dimension. This channel should however mark its territory and distinguish itself from other known news channels, like CNN and BBC World, without going into controversy like its mother-channel,” which broadcasts in Arabic.
To read more of Monday Morning's report on Al Jazeera, see "Al-Jazeera Launches in English
Will Europeans and Americans be able to get Al-Jazeera International? "Insofar as Europeans understand English, they will have the opportunity to access Al Jazeera’s unique perspective on world news," wrote columnist Frank Hennick of The Badger Herald, a University of Wisconsin publication that bills itself as "the largest fully independent daily campus newspaper in the nation." He added in a November 20, 2006, commentary headlined "Al Jazeera offers political context:
We Americans, however, will remain left out of the intrigue, as no American cable or satellite service providers will offer these broadcasts," he noted. "In the United States, anyone curious about Al Jazeera English will need a broadband connection and a bit of Internet savvy, confining the audience to political “techies.”
This snub, while not momentous in itself, is emblematic of a much broader problem facing America.
The New York Sun's Brendan Bernhard
also explained why Americans may not get to see the channel for a while."
... it took only a couple of days to discern that although one reason for its absence from American TV screens is political, another may be that the global range and scope of its reportage, were it to find an audience here, could prove an embarrassment to the relative parochialism of CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, et al. [For more, see Bernhard's November 21, 2006, report headlined "Is It Al-Jazeera Or CNN International?"].
And it could help break the U.S. monopoly on the distribution information, especially negative news, to Africa, Asia and the Middle East. According to Der Spiegel Online's Bernhard Zand, "The project could boost the self-esteem of a depressed cultural nation." For more, see "War of Cultures Hits the Airwaves."
Full-time "writer, journalist and commentator" Dilip Hiro put Al-Jazeera International into historical perspective. In a November 20, 2006, post at Comment is Free headlined "Why the world needs al-Jazeera English," he wrote:
It is not just Arabs and Asians who have felt irked by the biases of the Anglo-American media giants. The French have been equally troubled by the dominance of the English-speaking roll-on television news. Their frustration reached a peak during the run-up to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Hiro said, "It led French president Jacques Chirac to back a plan to set up a French satellite television channel to compete with the CNN
"As for Asia, Africa and Latin America, in the late 1970s the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) noted the existence of "information imperialism"," he added. "This led to the establishment of NAM news agency. But because it was cobbled together from state-run national news agencies, it failed to take off."
Note: This article can also be found at The Blogging Journalist and The Editorial Observer.