AlJazeera's English Venture
As someone who watches AlJazeera's Arabic channel regularly, I was looking forward to the launch of the English channel as well as the relaunch of the English website. I watched some of the free version clips and my initial reaction was to focus on the British/BBC like feel of the channel. The new website is much better than the old one which looked like it was from the Internet Stone Age, but can still use a lot of improvement. I must say it's an exciting venture to have an international English-language channel broadcast world news from the heart of the Middle East. What AlJazeera has accomplished over the past 10 years is no small feat. It has by far been one of the most powerful tools and most innovative technologies to emerge from the region in a long time, paving the way for more open and independent media that is so lacking in the region.
The new channel is not yet available in North America, and most likely will not be for a while. It is difficult to break into the cable/satellite companies here in the US, especially if you have already been vilified by the US government. Even the BBC is not carried by a cable/satellite channel here in the US, although it is available on some local stations for a two hours per day. Instead of welcoming such a news outlet that will be able to reach out to the American public and portray international issues from a different angle, unfortunately, AJE is not yet allowed to provide this bridge between the West and the Muslim world.
I subscribed to it yesterday through Real Player, but was not able to get it to work until now. I had to call customer service and be switched around until I was finally told that there has been some problems with the subscriptions to the new channel, and they will be fixed in the next few days so that it can automatically appear on my Real Player. Until then, I'll have to access it through a certain link. It has better quality streaming than I expected, but this is the first time I subscribe to a channel through the Internet and I'm not sure how much I will watch it.
I'm mostly interested in the programs that will be on the channel more than the news reports. When I first saw the news highlights, I was taken aback by the strong British accents of almost every reporter and anchor. The headlines on the bottom of the screen with the orange background are really similar to how the BBC looks. Sometimes I forget that I'm watching an "Arab" channel until someone says "AlJazeera" then I realize how foreign it seems. I guess I would've liked for it to have an Arab touch rather than trying to be something completely Western in appearance, albeit not content.
The news reports from Africa are gripping and add a much needed focus on the often under-represented and beleaguered continent. I just saw a report about the temporary refugee camps in Darfur which is definitely not something I would see on CNN or even BBC these days. It's a welcome change. I caught a short part of Riz Khan's show where he hosted a Palestinian who was tortured in Israeli jails and a former IDF member who is now a refusenik. I'm not sure what the topic of the show was, but to host these types of individuals as opposed to the usual policy makers is an interesting way of getting diverse opinions on hot topics.
So it'll take me some time to adjust to the British accents, but I hope the content will be good enough for me to watch it make use of my subscription.
You can subscribe through Real Player or Jump TV here.
[technorati tags: media, Aljazeera, BBC]