Al Jazeera launches US television news service

Al Jazeera logo in New York (20 Aug 2013) The new network will initially be available to 48 million US households

Related Stories

Al Jazeera is launching a new TV news channel in the United States.

Al Jazeera America will be available in almost 48 million US households, offering 14 hours of news each day.

The new network replaces Current TV, the cable television network founded by former US Vice President Al Gore, which the Qatar-owned broadcaster acquired in January 2013 for around $500m (£308m).

However, it has yet to sign agreements with major operators, such as Time Warner Cable, to carry the channel.

Al Jazeera America said that they will give less airtime than other US networks to advertising, typically carrying six minutes of adverts each hour, less than the industry average of 15 minutes.

From the thumping beat of its news anthems to the familiar faces of its on-screen talent, Al-Jazeera America looks and feels like a US network.

It claims the new channel will look at news through an American lens. Why, it has even opened a bureau in Nashville, the country and western capital.

Its main problem is reputational. Al Jazeera was the network of choice when Osama Bin Laden wanted to broadcast threats to the world. Some Americans confuse Al-Jazeera with Al-Qaeda. Some actively conflate the two.

The channel's big-name hire Ali Velshi, a former CNN presenter who made his name covering the 2008 financial crash, draws an interesting analogy with Japanese products launched in America.

Honda and Toyota overcame consumer animosity because their products proved so attractive. He says the same will be true of Al-Jazeera America, with its emphasis on hard news rather than punditry and comment, a point of difference with Fox News, the market leader, and MSNBC, the number two.

So, the new channel faces a dual challenge: is there still an appetite for straight news, and will Americans trust Al-Jazeera to deliver it.

Globally, Al Jazeera is seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries.

However, the network has previously struggled to attract a US audience, partly due to it being perceived as anti-American.

In 2010, Al-Jazeera English blamed a "very aggressive hostility" from the administration of former President George W Bush for reluctance among US cable companies to show the network.

'Unique'

After the takeover of Current TV was announced in January 2013, Time Warner Cable dropped Current from its line-up.

"Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible," the nation's second-largest TV operator said.

Al Jazeera said that its new schedule "fulfils its promise to provide unbiased in-depth coverage of domestic and international news important to its American viewers".

"We're breaking in with something that we think is unique and are confident, with our guts and some research, that the American people are looking for," said Kate O'Brian, president of Al Jazeera America and a former ABC News executive.

The new US network will employ around 850-900 journalists at launch, based in 12 US cities.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

Features & Analysis

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • An aerial shot shows the Olympic Stadium, which is closed for repair works on its roof, in Rio de Janeiro March 28, 2014.Extra Time Watch

    Will Rio be ready in time to host the Olympics in 2016? The IOC president gives his verdict

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.