January 4, 2013

Reactions mixed to Al Jazeera TV in U.S.

The Mideast-based network expands its reach to air news in America, but tuning in may be difficult in Maine.

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Today's poll: Al Jazeera America

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click image to enlarge

Al Jazeera's English-language staff prepares to broadcast from its Doha newsroom in Qatar in November 2006. The network announced this week that it had purchased cable-news channel Current TV and plans to transform it into a news channel called Al Jazeera America later this year. Though it remains uncertain, access to the broadcasts may be severely limited in Maine.

2006 file photo by The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

A Qatari staff member of al-Jazeera points out the newsroom of the TV network in Doha, Qatar, in February 2005.

2005 file photo by The Associated Press

"It's really a lot like CNN, in terms of being a strong source of information on international affairs," said Chomba Kaluba, a native of Zambia who teaches sociology at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. "In Zambia, Al Jazeera and the BBC are probably the most popular channels, for international news. They actually dig a lot deeper into issues than some (networks) do."

Whether Al Jazeera could attract a large audience in Maine or other states remains to be seen.

Ron Schmidt, who teaches American politics at USM, is not sure that American viewers would embrace Al Jazeera, mainly because they seem to prefer news about their own country over news of the world.

"When 24-hour news channels started, I think there was a sense that there would be a lot more global coverage, but instead we see a lot of the same stories repeated during the same cycle," said Schmidt. "I think there's a reason for that, and it's probably that when you start talking about the Congo, ratings go down."

Although the purchase price of Current TV was not disclosed, it was estimated to be $500 million, which means Gore would stand to make about $100 million because he had a 20 percent ownership stake.

Current TV has been heavy on American politics and issues, with shows like "Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer," "The War Room," which recently featured fiscal cliff debates, and "Talking Liberally."

Al Jazeera, while often focusing in the Middle East, covers stories around the world. It was started and funded by the emir of Qatar and his family, and an Al Jazeera English network was started in 2006. It has gotten very few cable providers to carry it.

Maine has a significant population of recent immigrants, and Jalali thinks many would welcome news of their homelands on TV.

"As an immigrant advocate, I know many people would love to get more information about the homelands they left behind," he said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:



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Today's poll: Al Jazeera America

Are you disappointed that Time Warner won’t carry Al Jazeera America?



View Results