QATAR: Al Jazeera America begins its telecast today …reaching to 48m US households …

Doha / QATAR: Al Jazeera America begins its telecast today, reaching to nearly 48 million potential households in the US.

The New York City-based TV network is starting its highly anticipated launch in the US with a dozen bureaus across the country, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans.

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Apart from hiring nearly 1,000 employees to kick-start the broadcast, the network has also signed up with a host of US TV veterans. The list of high-profile journalists includes John Seigenthaler, Soledad O’Brian, David Shuster, Sheila MacVicar, David Doss and award-winning investigative journalist Edward Pound, among others.

Speaking at a press briefing, Ehab Al Shihabi, the channel’s Chief Executive for International Affairs, said that Al Jazeera America will focus on local and regional issues for the American people. The network bought Al Gore’s Current TV with half a billion dollars earlier to start its news service in the US, which gives it a window to reach out to nearly 48 million households through the cable network.

Senior Al Sharq journalist, Khalid Al Jaber, who is in the US, said that the new network may be able to remove several stereotypes many Americans have about Al Jazeera for over a decade. He said that Al Jazeera’s image was distorted in America when statements and speeches of Osama bin Laden were telecast during the previous US administration.

“A few years later, the war on terror began which was considered by many to be against American interests, especially when it hit its peak during the invasion of Iraq. The images of Bin Laden and September 11 events have been on the American minds for over a decade,” Al Jaber said.

Paul Russell, a US academic in media studies in Washington, said that the channel was set to create a new vision to address issues that concern the American public in a different way. It should be able to compete in the US cable market and enhance political and media approaches on local and international levels.

Deborah Bassett, professor of telecommunications at Carolina University, said that the American audience was already hooked on to a number of local television channels that exist in all states of America and provided minute-by-minute update.

“Many prefer entertainment over news. The news stories of stars and famous celebrities attract more viewers than international news and regional conflicts,” she said.
“I think a number of political and intellectual elites and decision makers and those who can play role in creating public opinion will follow Al Jazeera America. They will also be able to make a comparison between leading US media institutions such as CNN, Fox News, and BBC. Al Jazeera gained recognition internationally through its coverage of news and events in conflict areas, which many Western news channels showed with shallow and narrow vision,” she said.
During the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera English audience on the Internet increased by a staggering 2,500 percent, and interestingly, 50 percent of this audience was based in America.

Sources: The Peninsula, Gulf Times, Caye Global News

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