After courting the US market for years, Qatar’s Al Jazeera Media Network finally gained access to about 45 million American homes this week with a new channel that has promised to deliver “real news” to the public.
At home, there is some dissonance, as the expansion of the network comes at a time when Qatar’s local media scene is increasingly criticized for its soft-ball or non-existent coverage of important issues.
But in the US, Al Jazeera America (AJAM) is already getting praise for its coverage of issues that most cable news providers there won’t touch, for fear of boring their audience.
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Of course, there are some who said the channel’s offerings, which is viewable by some 45 million Americans households that subscribe to cable services, are too dry and “deadly boring.”
Meanwhile, many American viewers have expressed anger at the compromise the network has had to make to get cable providers to carry their channel.
According to the New York Times:
Al Jazeera officials said privately that in the run-up to the premiere of the new American channel, they had little choice but to acquiesce to cable and satellite providers, which generally discourage online competition of the kind that Al Jazeera English previously represented.
In effect they have sacrificed Internet distribution for a shot at traditional distribution.
No online video stream of AJAM is being offered either, although clips of the channel’s reports can be viewed on its YouTube channel.
Reaction at home
In Qatar, admiration has been expressed for AJAM’s launch, but there also appears to be a sense of dismay among some residents, who wonder about the state of the media at home.
Speaking to PRI’s The World, Yara Darwish, a journalism student at Northwestern University in Qatar, pointed out that nothing like Al Jazeera exists in terms of the country’s local media.
She told the radio program:
If you look at Al Jazeera compared to the local news, and the local newspapers and the local television, it’s completely different…
The journalism culture in the US is already established, while we’re somewhat connecting the dots to something that we don’t even know how it looks…
Here’s the full clip of her interview:
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