Less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings promised for new US channel

Al Jazeera launches cable news network

Kate O’Brian,  president of Al Jazeera America.  Photograph: Al Jazeera America via the New York Times

Kate O’Brian, president of Al Jazeera America. Photograph: Al Jazeera America via the New York Times

 

Al Jazeera launches its around-the-clock cable news network in the US today, testing whether the Middle Eastern media group can break through American prejudices and a hotly competitive TV news market.

Staffed with nearly 900 journalists stationed in 12 US cities, Al Jazeera America is seeking to present an alternative to the polarising political commentary, sensationalism and splashy graphics of its rivals.

“There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings,” said Ehab Al Shihabi, interim chief executive of Al Jazeera America.

“We are not infotainment. We are in-depth and
informative.”

It will feature 14 hours of live news daily as well as original programmes, anchored by an ethnically diverse line-up of journalists familiar to Americans.

Al Jazeera, which has had a global English-language channel since 2006, began building the station in January after buying former US Vice President’s Al Gore’s Current TV for a reported $500m.

It enters a cut-throat and fast-changing market, where Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and broadcast television newscasts battle for viewers who are increasingly turning to the web.

Broad questions loom as to whether cable news outlets have peaked as a medium. Their financial growth showed signs of weakening in 2012 and viewership declined, according to the Pew Research Center.

“The American viewer is looking for a particular set of things that they just can’t find in the marketplace right now. That is unbiased coverage,” said Kate
O’Brian, the ABC News veteran who is now the channel’s president.