What We're Missing

By RJI on April 2, 2007 0 Comments

by Deborah Potter, Executive Director - NewsLab, http://newslab.org/articles/aljazeera.htm

In an article that ran in the February/March 2007 edition of the American Journalism Review NewsLab Executive Director Deborah Potter says it's a shame that two new cable news channels - Al Jazeera English and France 24 - are so hard to find in the U.S.

Potter writes:

What if they launched a news channel and nobody here could watch? Would anyone care to know what they're missing? The latest entries in the global TV news game, Al Jazeera English and France 24, are practically invisible in the United States. That's a shame, because they really do offer something different from standard cable news fare.

How different? Well, consider that until now, if you wanted news in English anywhere in the world, you had just two choices: CNN or the BBC. Both channels claim to reach more than 260 million households, and that's not all they have in common. Their worldview is decidedly Western, and they tend to cover the same major international stories. Each has its own style, of course. BBC World, carried here by PBS, reflects "stoicism, paternalism, [and] a certain degree of pompous self-righteousness," according to the British Journalism Review. CNN International is a little looser and hipper, but the easiest way to tell them apart is by the accents and the sports headlines. Hint: CNNI doesn't spend as much time on cricket. Now comes Al Jazeera, the English-language version of the Qatar-based network best known for airing graphic video of the Iraq war and exclusive tapes of Osama bin Laden. AJE promotes itself as "setting the news agenda," but with a potential global audience of just 80 million, its reach is dwarfed by the big two...

Newscasts on Al Jazeera English are dominated by coverage of the Middle East and Muslims. AJE covers stories that others ignore, and gives the stories everyone else covers much more time...

...France 24, funded jointly by the French government and a private TV network, made its debut in December with only a few U.S. outlets. Its potential global audience is about the same as AJE's, so its mission to "convey the values of France throughout the world" seems a little grandiose. But it certainly offers a French take on the news, with more stories from Africa and lots of serious talk about issues like whether Turkey should be allowed to join the European Union. It's sometimes boring but never trivial...

Click here for Potter's article in its entirety on the NewsLab website.