Al Jazeera America will launch later this year on the old Current TV, but it isn't going to be an easy road for them.
They’re not the terrorist news network, and they don’t even play one on TV — anymore.
Al Jazeera is an award-winning global news operation that has enraged kings, heads of state and even entire populations with in-depth, honest reporting.
It will arrive in the U.S. this year in the form of Al Jazeera America, replacing Current TV, which founder Al Gore sold to the Qatar-based broadcaster last year.
But it’s going to have serious issues.
The Current TV purchase will help it gain access to American TVs. But Al Jazeera has been trying to get on the air here for more than a decade — and been rebuffed at every turn by cable distributors who cite, among other things, its old practice of airing video messages from Osama Bin Laden.
“Look, if Fox News Channel was getting Bin Laden tapes FedExed to them, they would have run with them too,” a network source said.
While Osama is long dead and it’s been years since Al Jazeera ran his tapes, and despite all the accolades and praise, the network is damaged goods in this country.
But wait! There’s more!
Al Jazeera has long declared its editorial independence. Its reporting was among the most compelling to came out of the Arab Spring in 2011. Its coverage of the Syrian civil war is deep and accurate and has conveyed the horror of the situation far better than any other news organization.
Still, there have been serious questions.
The network was founded with a $137 million loan from the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, and later financed — at least in part — by the government of the tiny Persian Gulf monarchy.
In 2010, internal State Department communications released by WikiLeaks claimed that Qatar’s government manipulated Al Jazeera coverage to suit its interests.
Al Jazeera officials say vigoriously that no one tells them what to do.
In the U.S., Al Jazeera’s staffers come from MSNBC, Fox News Channel and dozens of other high-profile news organziations.
It’s most prominent hires so far are veteran investigative journalist Ed Pound, who will lead a 16-person investigative unit, and longtime CNN anchor and reporter Ali Velshi. Meanwhile, the network is setting up about a dozen U.S. bureaus simultaneously.
It’s a huge step in the right direction, because the only shot at success for Al Jazeera America will be good journalism.
Years and years of good journalism.
H/T NY Daily News