WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Premiere of Al Jazeera America

Al Jazeera American has just gone on line.

Its all-news cable TV channel targeting the United States makes its debut next week.

However, the new news channel will be available in less than half of pay TV homes.

Whatever you think of Al Jazeera, I think it's a sad commentary that certain U.S. cable companies can't spare a channel for the network, given all the entertainment that's available. (Profits or political pressure?)

Al Jazeera now commands the world's biggest global news operation, in contrast to the sad parochialism of the U.S. commercial networks.

I have been going to Al Jazeera's English-language website nearly every day. (The Arabic-language site offers somewhat different content, just as Al Jazeera English has been somewhat different from Al Jazeera in Arabic.)

Will I necessarily agree with Al Jazeera's story selection, focus, etc.? Heck no. But that goes for just about every news medium I access.

It's no different than when I was growing up -- twirling the shortwave dial -- and comparing and contrasting newscasts from the Voice of America, Radio Canada International, Radiobras (Brazil), the BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep, Swiss Radio International, Radio Sweden, Radio Denmark, Radio Finland, Radio Norway International, Radio Exterior de Espana, Radio Portugal, Vatican Radio, Radio Prague, Radio Budapest, Radio Sofia, Radio Bucharest (now Radio Romania International), the Voice of Turkey, Radio Cairo, UAE Radio from Dubai, Kol Israel, Radio RSA (South Africa), the Voice of Nigeria, All India Radio, Radio Peking (which later became Radio Beijing, then China Radio International), Radio Moscow (now the Voice of Russia), Radio Australia, Radio Japan, and lastly, in a special category of its own during the Cold War, Radio Tirana Albania. (This is just a partial list of what I listened to.)

Here's a link to Al Jazeera America on line....


Posted at 7:03pm on August 13, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 8:35pm
In honor of Al-JAZZera, I submit to you one of my favorite jazz pieces for your listening enjoyment:


Comments welcome.

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 9:25pm
Isn't A-J America the propaganda/public relations arm of AJ? Don't they basically report on the same stories as AJ but with different interpretations/slants of view?

Much like Yasser Arafat would say one thing in English but speak the truth in Arabic.

Tue, Aug 13, 2013 11:34pm
Actually I've been watching them for a long time overseas. Sometimes they get too far on their gangplanks, but then... so do some people here. It is refreshing again to see news as it was growing up. Real. Not the stuff we get today. Seriously, most are news hounds on this thread, but when I ask people in the real world, no one likes listening to news anymore and the reason is that all exude "fakeness". I tell them to stop watching TV and start listening to radio. That way they can do other things while listening to radio; not just sit glued as the TV demands.

Just like I typed this listening to some great jazz... Thanks Pizza!

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 6:28am
Sorry Allan, but I don't watch TV news networks, not even Fox. I may occasionally watch CBS news with Scott Pelley, but I mostly watch sports, movies, and crime documentaries. I wouldn't notice one way or the other if Al-Jazeera was part of the lineup.

The news on the radio is bad enough during the day. I don't need more of the same when I get home in the evening.

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 6:55am
Sorry but Al Jazeera's US feed has been available for some time now. Yes, few cable systems carry it (although I understand the one in DC does, so the powers there can watch) but it is available online and on devices such as Roku.

Al Jazeera has bought access on cable systems that now carry "Current" (although some of those systems say they will drop the channel). They are hiring some "names" and plan to become more competitive but this is not a new service, despite the hype.

You seem to believe everything you read in the press releases or what someone tells you in interviews.

Current was originally CBC News World International, which carried programs from the CBC's news channel and broadcasts from other international broadcasters.

As the previous posts make clear, the US is full of narrow-minded, ignorant bigots who love getting fed "red meat" by Fox, the propaganda machine of a right-wing Aussie.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Aug 14, 2013 7:38am
Yes, Mr. Smith, I was aware Al Jazeera's U.S. feed had already been available.

But, as I understand it, this expanded service will be more U.S.-centric in an attempt to pick up a following in the U.S.

More U.S. cosmetic values.

(In a way, that might actually make this product LESS interesting to me.)

To Mr. Grey... Didn't I mention above listening to different international broadcasters as a kid? I was trying to make a point. I don't expect any news medium to be free of bias; the very selection of stories and their context goes through a prism.

(Quite apart from the Middle-East and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Al-Jazeera is useful simply because it has people and resources in many countries beyond the Islamic world in which budget-cutting Western news organizations - particularly U.S. - are AWOL.)

Of course, some outlets are much more propagandistic than others. Radio Tirana Albania was like that; Radio Pyongyang (now the Voice of Korea) still is.

Sure, Al-Jazeera English - which employs many journalists from the English-speaking world - has somewhat different sensibilities than Al-Jazeera Arabic. That's inevitable.

I do agree with kavips about the utility of radio.

Allan Loudell

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 9:20am
"To Mr. Grey... Didn't I mention above listening to different international broadcasters as a kid? I was trying to make a point. I don't expect any news medium to be free of bias; the very selection of stories and their context goes through a prism."

Mr. Loudell: I did indeed read that you listened to the international broadcasters as a kid...and I agree that to be truly informed one must listen to more than American-centric news...my point is that the American-AlJazeera is different than the real AJ. (Same event but very different storylines...just like PLO leader Arafat)
There is a difference between bias and propaganda...The English version tells a different version of the same story when told in Arabic.
A-J does need to be listened to/watched to stay informed but always keep in mind the source/background of the news outlet and their worldviews.

I too agree with kavips on the utility of radio...especially internet-based radio.

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 9:29am
Allan Loudell: The current feed already seems US-centric. And, yes, the changes do appear largely cosmetic. What I've seen of the BBC America channel, and their US-centric newscast does not offer encouragement for what happens when foreign broadcasters go after the US audience.

kavips: It's an old argument. Except for people over a certain age, few TV viewers "sit glued" any more. And TV viewers often do multi-task. Railroads fought air travel with "getting there is half the fun." Ice companies fought refrigerators with "cold alone is not enough." Radio fought TV with "whatever else you have to do, while you do it listen to your radio." None worked.

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 9:43am
Just had this come across and it reminded me of the posts above. It explains why Americans do not trust what they see on tv. We know it is faked..

"Not long ago I (Robert Reich) debated a Republican economic advisor on a cable TV program. During the brief station-break, the show’s producer told me to “be angrier.” I told her I didn’t want to be angrier. “You have to,” she said. “Viewers are surfing through hundreds of channels and will stop for a gladiator contest.”

Within this cacophony, we’ve lost trusted arbiters of truth — the Edward Murrows and Walter Cronkites who could explain what was happening in ways most Americans found convincing."


Allan Loudell
Wed, Aug 14, 2013 9:50am
To Mr. Grey,

I "get" what you're saying.

I would argue the Anglo & Arabic versions of Al-Jazeera are inevitably different because of different target audiences, and the differing sensitivities of the reporters and editorial staffs.

But, ultimately, targeting an audience is no different from a U.S. urban contemporary (black) station or Spanish-language station taking a different "attitude" and using a different emphasis and story selection from a country, rock, oldies, or yes, a news-talk station. (It's what I did in Memphis when I anchored newscasts for an urban station at :55 after the hour, then changed mental gears to anchor news on a country station at the top of the hour.)

Of course, it gets more complicated with the geo-politics of the Middle-East and catering to different international audiences. Plus, Al-Jazeera at some subliminal level reflects the interest of the ruling Al-Thani family in the State of Qatar. (The State of Qatar, itself, represents an intriguing example of a complicated, multi-dimensional, foreign policy: Strong relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, a defense pact with the U.S., hosting a U.S. base; yet, strongly bankrolling the Sunni rebels in Syria; yet, maintaining reasonably cordial relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran!)

Mr. Smith: Agreed, many folks don't stay "glued" to their TV sets anymore, and a multi-tasking, younger generation views visual images via different platforms. Personally, if it's one of the few shows I really, really like... I still like to watch without diversion; otherwise, when watching a rerun or a less revered show, I might be simultaneously typing on the keyboard of my computer, or doing some other work.

As a kid, I did most of my school homework while listening to international radio broadcasts...

To kavips...

I think you've hit on the central paradox: A lot of what some (or many) Americans despise about TV news is TV's reaction to the diminishing American attention span, hyperactivity, and many many choices. Subtle nuances are lost. I'm not sure a Walter Cronkite would fare very well in today's media universe. That's why I prefer the printed word.

Allan Loudell

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 10:06am
And one thing that Al Jeez will freely mention that no other American publication has yet mentioned, is that the independent and unbiased panel President Obama proposed to investigate "reforms" in the NSA, is being headed by James Clapper himself, the head of National Intelligence, who lied to Congress in March; he will be the one picking the panelists who will make up this "fair" and "open" group.

Just shows why we need an outside source reporting here in America.

Allan Loudell
Wed, Aug 14, 2013 10:20am

Actually, some U.S. media (i.e., The ATLANTIC Wire) DID note those points about James Clapper, but I agree, not prominently.

From The GUARDIAN today:

"The White House has moved to dampen controversy over the role of the director of national intelligence James Clapper in a panel reviewing NSA surveillance, insisting that he would neither lead it nor choose the members.

Statements by Barack Obama and Clapper on Monday night were widely interpreted as the director of national intelligence being placed in charge of the inquiry, which the president had announced on Friday would be 'independent'.

The apparent involvement of Clapper, who has admitted lying to Congress over NSA surveillance of US citizens, provoked a backlash, with critics accusing the president of putting a fox in charge of the hen house..."

Allan Loudell

Wed, Aug 14, 2013 7:55pm
So did anybody besides Kavips listen to "Bellavia"?

Thu, Aug 15, 2013 7:59am
I understand the big premiere is next Tuesday afternoon.

Also the end of the TV runs of Bill Press and Stephanie Miller, shows which go over heads of the tea types here.

Tue, Aug 20, 2013 11:04am
So A-J has officially begun broadcasting thanks to Al Gore selling out his "principles" for the almighty dollar...talk about a huge hypocrite.

If you have cable TV, your monthly cable payment helps pay for A-J America to be on the air...cable TV is going to fail when people realize they can get what they want when they want via the internet.

I agree that A-J should be listened to/watched for news from a different angle but would Americans have supported putting the Nazi News Network on millions of radios during WW2? From my point of view it's pretty much the same idea. It's one thing to listen to the real A-J for news and hear what is really said vs the "Americanized" version that will be shown in millions of homes in our country.

Wed, Aug 21, 2013 11:57am
The A-J Egypt reporters quit over the network's coverage of Egypt, and America invites them into 48 million households with open arms.

Will A-J America reporters quit when they're told what to report?

..."the Egyptian government closed Al Jazeera after 22 staffers quit in disgust over its pro-Muslim Brotherhood bias, you can safely count on Al Jazeera America’s first broadcast bucking up the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt."

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