Today marks the launch of Al Jazeera’s American-based television network – Al Jazeera America – which will be made available to an estimated 40 million viewers over Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T, Verizon and other subscriber networks.
(It is not available on Time Warner Cable, however).
The Qatar-based media outlet was founded in 1996. Three years later it became a 24-hour news service, and in 2003 it launched an English-language website. In 2006 Al Jazeera International – an English-language network – was launched.
For years the network was directly subsidized by the oil-rich government of Qatar, and as recently as last year was embroiled in controversy regarding the extent to which Qatar dictates its editorial policy.
The network has few U.S. advertisers. In fact it will run just six minutes of advertising each hour initially – less than half of what most cable channels run. How come? Easy: American advertisers remain leery of the network given the popular perception that it is a mouthpiece for terrorist organizations.
Al Jazeera is hoping to overcome that stereotype by providing hard news.
“There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings,” its acting CEO told reporters last week.
In fact the network will employ a 16-person investigative team, a major investment at a time when other networks are moving away from investigative reporting (CNN recently scuttled its investigative unit).
All told, Al Jazeera has hired nearly 1,000 employees for its American network – making its launch the biggest thing to hit television media since Fox News and MSNBC were launched in the 1990s.