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Al Jazeera America Channel Launch Set for Today, Critics Remain Wary of Qatari Backed Company

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By Myles Collier, Christian Post Contributor
August 20, 2013|11:07 am

Al Jazeera America is set to launch on Tuesday in an effort that is described by the company as an attempt to provide viewers an alternative to the entertainment news industry by providing quality, in-depth content concerned with global and domestic issues.

"There will be less opinion, less yelling and fewer celebrity sightings," the channel's acting chief executive, Ehab al-Shihabi, told reporters on a conference call last week.

Al Jazeera America will officially launch at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday when it replaces Current TV, which it acquired in January for $500 million. The channel will be broadcast to roughly 50 million homes when it goes live.

Al Jazeera is making an effort to been seen as a company that can provide world-class journalism in the tough market of American television. Al Jazeera will only have six minutes of commercials per hour, which is less than half of the average 16-20 minutes of commercials that most U.S. networks follow.

Al Jazeera America will feature documentary films, a large online news section and a 16-person investigative reporting team, which is significant given the immense reduction in newsrooms regarding in-the-flesh reporters.

The network is realistic of the challenges it faces and has built Al Jazeera America on a foundation of 900 employees in addition to an extensive network of freelancers and 12 U.S. bureaus, with the potential for expansion.

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The media company is owned by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani – who is also the head of the Qatar Media Corporation – and was founded in 1996. It started as an Arabic-speaking channel located and is currently based in Doha, Qatar.

It is widely viewed negatively in western countries for its alleged anti-U.S. and anti-Israel reporting bias, but Marwan Bishara, one of the network's most prominent journalists, has previously revealed concerns that he holds that the network will compromise its objective approach to journalism in order to quell criticism.

Officials from the network have tried to expand their coverage and their stated mission of sharing another perspective with the Western world by touting their coverage of the Arab Spring and current unrest in Egypt. It is currently the only independent news and information television channel that is broadcast outside of the region.

 

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