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Today was the launch of Al Jazeera America, replacing Current TV on cable channels, and I've only been watching for an hour or so, but I'm impressed.

I came in on the tail end of a discussion on global warming.  A balanced discussion, that looked at the problem from several viewpoints.  Intelligent commentary that didn't talk down to the viewer.  One person's recommendation at the end of the report contained the advice (paraphrasing), "don't build new cities near the current sea level."

More under the fold...

A program called Fault Lines came on.

"2012 was a good year for Walmart, but a bad year for Bangladesh."  From an Al-Jazeera America report about the fire that killed 112 and injured scores of others at a factory that makes clothes for Walmart, Sears, and other global retailers… and five months before a collapse in a similar garment factory killed over a thousand.

A nicely researched piece about supply chains leading from the US to Bangladesh.  Garments are 80% of Bangladesh's economy.  The country has the lowest minimum wage in the world:  18¢.

"If Walmart doesn't know where it's goods come from, it's because they choose not to know".  Walmart and the Gap spin the connection to assuage customers, but the truth is more painful.

Then came the News.  The top story was on the turmoil in Egypt.  A continuing story, that's been very important since the military removed the elected president.  CNN refused to interrupt their coverage of the Zimmerman trial to cover the riots.  Al Jazeera had a good, thoughtful, report, with a clear assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood vs. the military.  America's aid was mentioned, but the view was from the Egyptian perspective.  No mention of other countries, such as Israel.

Then a report about the California wildfires.  A broad coverage of the whole situation, including mention of fires in Alaska.  A fairly short report, but well done.

A report on California force-feeding prisoners on a hunger strike was led off by a short report on a school shooting that was long on facts with no editorializing.

A promo for Real Money seemed okay, if a bit on the "stand up and be excited" school of journalism.  I dunno.  I'm old school:  News anchors sit behind a desk.  Ah well, at least we know they wear pants.

A report on Obama's vacation pointed out that most politicians take much of August off... but workers on the low end of the pay scale get none.

I'll stop taking notes and post this now.

The commercials are annoying (but short), and the news crawlis are only only okay (but the sub-heads above the crawl are informative).  Still, it's not headline news, dominated by sound-bites.  In the few stories I've seen, I didn't detect any of the anti-Israel bias that sometimes manifests itself in other Al Jazeera reports.  It looks as advertised:  "unbiased, fact-based, in-depth stories of U.S. and international news".

Al-Jazeera America is head-over-heals better than CNN or any of the network stations, and even better than "60 MInutes" or MSNBC.  Brown people on tv!  Intelligent commentary from intelligent commentators! A very good beginning.

Al Gore is right again.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm really disappointed in AT&T... (10+ / 0-)

    I have AT&T Uverse and expected to be able to watch AJAM, since their website and AJ's both indicate that it's on Channel 189 (old Current).  One hour before launch, AT&T announced they would not carry it due to a "contract dispute"  Yeah, right.  

    Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter - MLK,Jr.

    by Embee on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 03:43:12 PM PDT

  •  I stopped watching TV news except Democracy Now (7+ / 0-)

    because the entire US news (TV) media is crap, pablum and garbage.

    I'll check out Al Jazeera.  I had stopped watching Current because a lot of the programming was basically a front for the Democratic party establishment.

    Anyways, thanks for this report.  I'll set my TiVo to record some of the programs and see if we finally get some quality in our airwaves.

  •  Wish Brighthouse offered it n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, peacestpete

    I'm just Double Tapped the hell out.

    by pajoly on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 03:52:05 PM PDT

    •  I also wish Brighthouse would carry it. Signed... (0+ / 0-)

      a request at DailyKos earlier today for Brighthouse to carry it, through a sponsored ad on the front page.
      I only get basic cable, so I probably wouldn't be able to access it anyway. But I signed it for others who get more channels and could benefit.
      I also signed a different petitition several weeks ago to get
      Al Jazeera on American TV.

      I share a birthday with John Lennon and Bo Obama.

      by peacestpete on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 05:10:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Not Yet on Slime Warmer nt (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Aunt Pat, cotterperson

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 03:54:28 PM PDT

  •  Watching Al Jazeera right now on Verizon 1750 (4+ / 0-)

    I'm very impressed so far.

  •  Not surprised at all (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pvasileff, Meteor Blades, IreGyre

    I've been getting my world news from AJE for about two years now. Their coverage of the Libyan civil war and the Arab Spring pretty much annihilated every other network.

    The only thing to watch out for is that AJ has a distinct bias against Israel. I'm pretty anti-Israel, so it doesn't concern me that much, but it might shock some of the folks here who are used to everyone eating shit sandwiches from the Israel lobby.

  •  similar to BBC (5+ / 0-)

    I watched at 6 and they had nightly news,looked pretty straight forward and covered some interesting things. They even had sports and weather.
    Not sure it will attract the cable news crowd that likes noise though.

  •  AJE (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson

    AJ America is part of the station's reworking of its English services into regional "flavors". AJE itself is now more targetted towards Europe and Africal

    It's quite interesting to see the failure to be taken up by cable companies - in the UK it is part of the main terrestrial TV service "Freeview" although like many smaller channels it is only on the main transmitters. The poor reception areas surved by relay transmitters do not although people there can get it on DB satellite. (Terrestrial TV in the UK uses a different standard which means about 50 SD and (currently) 4HD channels are available without charge, together with around 20 radio channels.  Incidentally, another on Freeview is Russia Today.

    We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 04:22:25 PM PDT

  •  well, no AJ America on Uverse. :/ (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, sunny skies

    I was actually looking forward to giving AJA a try.  The idea of 6 mins. of commercials per hour vs. 15 mins. sounded good, as did the idea of extended stories, and cutting the celebrity fluff.   Unfortunately they would have had a lot of bitterness to overcome: I still have not forgotten that they were basically the promotional media for OBL and AQ early in the gulf war.   ANY perspective other than what our national news providers have become would be better than nothing.   As it stands, ATT won't give them the chance.   Oh well--I guess I'll have to stick with websites (BBC, Guardian, CBC, NYTimes, etc.) for news.  

    Still in the back of my mind; Why does the Emir of Qatar want this USA news channel if not to make money?  What is he getting for his money?  What is his mission statement?  Don't tell me he's just a news wonk philanthropist.

    •  If you want to know the history. (0+ / 0-)

      The previous incarnation of BBC Arabic was a joint venture with a Saudi company which fell apart when they tried to influence editorial policy. That left a gap in the Arabic news resources that the Emir sought to fill with a sort of Gulf version of the BBC and indeed recruited many who had previously been employed at BBC Arabic.

      They then saw a gap in the world market for an English version which would cover those areas of the world which the other big international TV new organisations missed - principally South America and Africa. When they started AJE they also drew staff who previously worked at the BBC but also ITN, the other main UK TV news service, CNN and other American news stations. (One reason for the reliance on ex-BBC staff is the training in journalism and journalistic ethics the BBC give)

      Of course the eventual aim is to make money or at least break even and until then he has big pockets from oil to cover the startup period.  It is also part of the larger Qatari project to diversify its economy away from oil into other sectors. You may notice that the World (Soccer) Cup is to be held there and this is designed to promote their tourist industry. They also intend to be one of the big financial centres as they sit between the Far Eastern and European bourses in terms of time zone.

      We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 08:53:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I could do without Ali Velshi (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, peacestpete

    but so far so good. David Shuster is just one of the familiar faces. I had AJE on TWC but I switched to DirecTV which didn't have AJE but has AJA.  

    One of my kids asked whatever will become Cenk and the Young Turks now that Current is gone.  

  •  The new Al Jezeera website is good too. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    davehouck

    Since I haven't had cable for a while and never watched television news anymore anyway after giving up on the PBS News Hour, I was not happy that the Al Jazeera live online news videos I had been watching would stop.  But the website is a good substitute, pretty much using the same approach and stories as what you describe on cable, but easier to skim and pick and choose. If you don't have cable, the website is worth checking out.

  •  Have you ever watched Al Jazeera English? (0+ / 0-)

    It was available streaming on the AJ website and in a number of cities.  It's gone now and AJAM is replacing it in all distribution channels.

    I missed the show for the first AJA on WYCC in Chicago today, but I saw part of it via transcripts on their website.  It looks good but I miss the broader international style and focus of AJE.

    By the way, I think the background from Greenwald is worth looking at.  You can find some of that at my diary earlier today:

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 05:26:41 PM PDT

  •  I've been impressed with it, as well. (0+ / 0-)

    A couple of small complaints.  I am getting it on Verizon Fios, where it took the place of Current TV.  So it's not in HD -- it's in the smaller 4:3 box screen.  The scroll crawl is WAY too small to read, and I tried three different pairs of glasses for that.  They need to increase the size of it -- doubling it would be a good start, even if they do go HD.  And the sound isn't right somehow.  It doesn't have the same dynamics as the other news networks and sounds kind of stilted, old-style AM radio-ish.

    The hour long special on Walmart would have been better taken if it had been put on later at night.  It takes a calmer, more layback mindset to sit through an hour documentary when you're expecting the hotter medium of BREAKING NEWS.

    And nothing about the Guardian mess at all, which was REALLY disappointing.  I got more about that from CNN International.

    •  Contact your cable provider (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo

      Their web site shows the launch preparation and they clearly use the 16:9 format which in the US equates to HD. The fact you are only seeing a 4:3 picture and are getting poor sound indicates your cable provider is using much reduced bandwidth for that channel.

      If they follow the format of AJE, they will probably repeat their long documentaries at 2 or 3 different times during the day or through the week. Usually they have half hour documentaries or their strand-based magazine programs starting a 30 minutes past each hour after the news. The scheduling for AJAM may of course diverge from this.

      We will work, we will play, we will laugh, we will live. We will not waste one moment, nor sacrifice one bit of our freedom, because of fear.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 08:00:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It will be good to flip back & forth from msnbc (0+ / 0-)

    And AJAM on 107 here in Philly. Did so today. They will get the channel into shape. They have lots of money at a time when no one does.

  •  They are only doing 6 minutes of commercials/hour (0+ / 0-)

    That alone would motivated me to give them my time. From my Twitter TL, the dominant impression seems to be that AJE looks much like CNN of the 80's and early 90's.

    I like MSNBC, but it is almost kind of boring hearing opinion all of the time. I guess that is why I can't listen to talk radio for very long. I still prefer to learn rather than be titillated with like-minded commentary.

    I think the competition will be good for those of us who still believe that there is a place for news on tv. If they can avoid the he said-she said stenography of the other news organizations, then they will be successful. They have deep pockets and do not have to answer to Wall Street for immediate profit.

    I still think it was a mistake to keep the Al- Jazzera name, but it makes sense in that they want to be a global brand.

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 06:53:25 PM PDT

  •  From 2001 until 2009, I watched ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lib Dem FoP, pgm 01, IreGyre

    ...Al Jazeera in Arabic with my stepkids as translators. I was always impressed at the quality of reporting. Not that it was perfect, not that it had no agenda, but the claims of being a mouthpiece for bin Laden or anti-American were way far off base. Indeed, the criticism of U.S. policy were often considerably less than what you found during the same period at Daily Kos.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Tue Aug 20, 2013 at 08:38:50 PM PDT

  •  Fault Lines is excellent, (0+ / 0-)

    but by no means the best of what Aljazeera has to offer -- been watching it for several years here in Oman.  My favorite is Witness, which is hosted by Rageh Omar, a Somali-Brit, who has one the most incisive minds on anyone's TV news network.  I hope you get it over there.  Another one that I try not to miss is Listening Post, hosted by a very smart Canadian, Richard Gizbert, who deconstructs news coverage of each week's major stories across the world.  Absolutely first rate.  I'm moving back over there soon, so I'll certainly watch this new US version, but I've got to set up a VFN or something because I want the AJE international edition.  It will undoubtedly be better,  just as CNN International is light years better than CNN domestic, which is absolute crap.  

    I've noticed in the comments made about this new service elsewhere that some people are criticizing their coverage of stories that "have no relationship to the US" or "too leisurely and too information heavy" (!).  Apparently, they don't want their information in more than 20 second segments.  And just why the hell does every story have to have a direct US connection?  Can't these people get it through their thick sculls that a world does indeed exist outside the U.S. of A. where things happen that are just as important as anything that happens in the US?    

    -7.13 / -6.97 "The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion." -- Edmund Burke

    by GulfExpat on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 11:22:28 AM PDT

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