The British-accented, Al Jazeera English satellite news channel, met with limited reception by US pay-TV subscribers, will be superseded in North America by a new, American-based (but still Qatar-monarchy owned) Al Jazeera America news channel. Al Jazeera America will be ushered into American cable and satellite homes over the channel formerly known as CurrentTV beginning August 20, 2013.
Tony Fox, Al Jazeera's public communications chief (formerly with Comedy Central), gives us the lowdown on how vast the news channel's American operation will be - and what independence will this channel have from the sharia-governing owner, Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani.
The channel has hired familiar, chief business correspondent with CNN, Ali Velshi, to be the familiar public face to help streamline acceptance of channel-viewing into American homes. Mr. Velshi explained his perspectives on the channel's role in the American media landscape to DemoCast at the National Cable Television Association convention in Washington D.C. on June 10th.
The Qatari Emir, though also professing a hands-off approach towards editorial in Al Jazzera English, has been criticized for influencing it. In one case, it resulted in the replacement of it's long-time Director-General by a man with no background in journalism, according to the Britain's The Guardian newspaper published 30 Sept'12:
"Al-Jazeera English was set up in 2006 by the Arabic broadcaster of the same name and both are owned by the Qatari state. The network, founded in 1996, gained credibility with audiences in the region for its seemingly independent coverage in the post 9/11 period. Its English channel was launched to offer an alternative, non-western-centric worldview.
However, in recent years, Qatar has taken steps to consolidate its control over the channel as the country seeks greater political influence in the Gulf.
In September 2011, Wadah Khanfar, a Palestinian widely seen as independent, suddenly left as director-general after eight years in the post and was replaced by a member of the royal family, Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani, a man with no background in journalism.
In his resignation letter, Khanfar said, after noting that the channel had been criticised by Donald Rumsfeld and hailed by Hillary Clinton, that "al-Jazeera is still independent and its integral coverage has not changed".