The Verdict is in on Al-Jazeera

The English language version of Al-Jazeera premiered on Wednesday, but virtually no one in America saw. Apparently only four cable operators offered the controversial Qatar-based news agency in the US. Earlier this year talks between Al-Jazeera and Comcast broke down to offer the network along with CNN and Fox News. It is believed that Comcast rejected Al-Jazeera because of its anti-American stance. With the recent US elections giving power to the Democrats and growing frustration with the Iraq war, there is belief that Al-Jazeera will only fuel more anger at the Bush administration. For instance if Americans had access to Al-Jazeera, they would have seen the interview yesterday where UK prime minister Tony Blair called the Iraq war a "disaster." "I think more Americans would be more willing to watch Al-Jazeera," said Darvel Johnson of Boston. "People are tired of the same propaganistic rhetoric from CNN and MSNBC and especially Fox. The multinationals and the US government have control of what the American media can and can not show. People need an alternative."

Meanwhile media activists hope that Al-Jazeera will provide more balance, indepth coverage from the developing world. It is already being called an "creative alternative to Western media." On Wednesday the channel started its coverage with a piece about the elections in the DRC, followed by reports from Darfur and the Middle East. Yesterday the BBC website presented views from African bloggers on Al-Jazeera.

From BBC:

The BBC News website looks at what the blogosphere makes of the new al-Jazeera English-language channel's take on Africa.

"Impressed!" "Consciously global." "CNN has competition!" "Propaganda!" "A poor BBC World" "Finally!" are how some of the voices in the blogosphere reacted to the launch of al-Jazeera English this week.

"Their motto is 'setting the news agenda', which I rather like," writes Raising Yousuf, Unplugged: diary of a Palestinian mother blogging from her Cairo apartment.

"Out of the first set of news pieces they headlined, something like two or three were out of Africa -a welcome change for a continent too often overlooked in today's global media."

From Bahrain Sabbah's Blog is also full of congratulations:

"It looks to have more focus on Africa, which is something new to me. We hardly know about our neighbours - thanks to local and international media."


It was hot cheeks for Sheila Lenon in Rhode Island in the United States.

"I came away from al-Jazeera English's broadcast embarrassed at my ignorance of the news of the rest of the world," she blogged at Subterranean Homepage news .

Sokari at Black Looks is also emotional in her response.

"Having only just acquired Nile Sat dish and having spent five days watching BBC World and Euro News, al-Jazeera will come as a relief... a credible alternative to Western media."

But Bare Knuckle Politics suggests such relief is open to interpretation, he posts: "By non-Western, we mean Islamic..."

While The Upper Canadian blog suggests al-Jazeera has forgotten its Islamic roots.

"In Tangiers, satellite dishes hang practically off of every building and the network blares in most tea houses, a scene repeated across the Arab world. If a pan-Arabic movement were ever to take hold, al-Jazeera would be its glue.

"What al-Jazeera failed to realise about the power of broadcasting in English is that it transcends borders and cultures and that is what a good international broadcast should reflect. Yet, while choosing its staff, al-Jazeera has hired a small band of primarily British and British-sounding journalists."

'Bit worthy'

Clearly American Princess , who describes her blog as "Right-wing extremism with impeccable fashion sense" was watching a different channel.

"Al-Jazeera debuted with perky, vaguely Middle Eastern looking anchors, long boring human interest stories about North Africa that go on far longer than necessary due to the lack of commercials, and a clean, earth-toney look, designed to lull you into a false sense of security about getting your news from an outlet that broadcasts directly from that American-loving nation, Qatar."

I'm Simon Dickson is less cynical, but unconvinced by what he has seen.

"It all feels a bit worthy," he writes, "There weren't really any obvious 'news' lines to a lot of the reports.

"I'm sure conditions in Sudan are terrible, but nothing has obviously happened today to make them any worse than yesterday. Same goes for Zimbabwe."


Wahid Maahour blogged his agreement.

"Al-Jazeera was making the most of the BBC's banishment from Zimbabwe (apart from the occasional smuggled film footage, embroidered with a tearfully croaking voiceover from Fergal Keane) as one of its first dispatches came from Harare.

"The bad news was that there was not much actual news. This was more of a slick pre-prepared heat-and-serve film package clearly fashioned for transmission on launch day."

His next post, however, was more upbeat.

"The programme on boy soldiers from Liberia was riveting television. When do you normally see Liberia apart from when there's an election?" he asked.

No Longer at Ease commenting on My Heart's in Africa enjoyed the coverage of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"How about the exclusive interview with [President Joseph] Kabila (I didn't know he was so articulate)."

For Chris Doidge's Blog the only shame about the channel is its accessibility.

"It's available on Sky Digital and online, but the online option either lets you watch 15 minutes of poor quality video, or makes you pay for it," he writes.

"Not a good idea for a channel struggling to get into people's homes."

And posting a comment at Bare Knuckle Politics , J Nihart takes a dig at all news outlets.

"When you need propaganda now, CNN and al-Jazeera are there for you 24/7!"


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