But Al Jazeera’s greatest challenge is American apathy — or, at least, perceived apathy — toward international affairs. Before the ink had even dried on the Current-Al Jazeera deal, Time Warner Cable announced it had dropped the channel. (It has since said it’s keeping an open mind.) Executives there attributed the move to Current TV’s low ratings, not Al Jazeera’s politics, but implicit in that was a total lack of faith in Al Jazeera America’s ability to improve on Current’s lackluster performance. The move cost Al Jazeera roughly 12 million potential viewers.
In retrospect, the $500 million buy-in appears to have been the easy part. Now, Al Jazeera must convince American audiences that a Middle Eastern-based news network — owned by the Emir of Qatar, and therefore funded largely by foreign oil wealth — can be both credible and compelling…
“There is quantum difference in style and reporting between Al Jazeera English and the mothership, Al Jazeera Arabic,” Lawrence Pintak, a former Middle East correspondent for CBS News and founding dean of The Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, explained.
“Reporters on Al Jazeera Arabic proudly wear their Arabism on their sleeve. Like much of Arab journalism, it is polemical, ideological, and emotional,” he said. “Al Jazeera English, aside from providing a vast amount of international news, is not dramatically different from watching CNN in terms of content. It is a cross-border station largely programmed by Western or Western-educated journalists.”