Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Al-Jazeera English is live

Check them out, their English website is updated (looks notably better). I wasn’t able to connect at the launch at 7am eastern time because the website was overwhelmed. They’re only broadcast 12 hours per day for now and no major US cable or satellite systems have agreed to carry them yet (let’s be blunt, they’ve been unfairly slandered), but you can watch them via RealPlayer and a few other online options. They are hoping first and foremost to carry the global (i.e., non-US) English-speaking audience which numbers in the tens of millions, establish their credibility, and then hopefully the US systems will start to carry them as well. I’ve been watching a few clips now, and I must say, their first outing looks fairly impressive. Certainly glitches – Muhammad Hassanein Haykal’s ramblings are absolutely intolerable to listen to in Arabic, why in the world they stuck him on speaking stilted English instead of with a translator (probably his own stubborn insistence that his lousy English is great) is even more horrendous – but overall it looks a fairly slick blend of BBC World and Jazeera’s own identity. I can see it become a main news source I would follow. Their English website also looks improved, I was never very impressed by the last one or the quality of the reporting, hopefully the facelift is more than skin deep.

I would highly recommend getting on the site now or shortly as the first 12 hour broadcast is over and if you click on the link to watch live via RealPlayer you’ll get a decent little 15 minute sampling of the types of things they were broadcasting today.

Click through on the Programmes link as well and you can see the types of shows they’re doing and see some of the journalists. One glaring omission is at least a show or two that directly utilizes some of their best Arab journalists. I wish they could have Faisal al-Qasem for example doing an English version of al-Ittijah al-Mu’akis (the Opposite Direction), he is so much better than anything Crossfire or any US network show has ever produced in the “heated debate” genre. Maybe yet to come (fingers crossed). They have an extremely large network of bureaus around the world with a very international cast of journalists. They state their goal is to provide a view of the world from the perspective of countries who are more frequently spoken about than from, and they certainly seem to have assembled the resources to do so. After numerous false starts, it’s go-time now and they have to prove they can do it. Based on their first outing, I certainly wish them luck, the English speaking world certainly needs news from a developing world perspective.


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