Upcoming 'Al Jazeera America' Gearing Up for US-Focused Coverage

The upcoming Al Jazeera America had initially planned that 60 percent of its coverage will comprise news from the United States, but now the cable channel wants to have almost all of its programming originating from America.

The New York Times learned about the change in the programming strategy of the Qatar-based owners of Al Jazeera after interviewing staff members and others associated with the channel.

When they bought Al Gore's Current TV in the beginning of this year, they declared the channel replacing it, Al Jazeera America, will be an international news channel having about 40 percent of its content from the Doha-based Al Jazeera English channel.

But now, the channel will not be any different from other American mainstream news channels like CNN or Fox News.

Al Jazeera America was to be launched in July, but the date has now been pushed to August, apparently to make necessary changes for the new programming strategy, including hiring more American reporters and anchors. The launch can be expected to be delayed further than August.

"We expect to have approximately 800 employees when we launch," Ehab Al Shihabi, the Al Jazeera executive in charge of international operations, was quoted as saying. It "will be an American news channel that broadcasts news of interest and importance to its American audience," he said.

"The precise split will vary from day to day depending only on what is newsworthy and important," Al Shihabi added. "We expect most days will primarily be domestic news. But Al Jazeera's 70 bureaus around the world will mean that we will have an unparalleled ability to report on important global stories that Americans are not seeing elsewhere. We will do that when it is warranted."

Reporters and staff from existing channels like CNN and MSNBC are joining Al Jazeera America. "This is the first big journalism hiring binge that anyone's been on for a long time," CNN reporter and anchor Ali Velshi, who has joined the forthcoming channel, was quoted as saying.

Al Jazeera America will be headquartered in New York City with other bureaus in key locations in the U.S., the channel has announced.

"Just like the rest of Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera America is committed to high-quality, objective and balanced investigative journalism," it says on its website. "Al Jazeera America is being built from the ground up: we're hiring American journalists to report on American stories from coast-to-coast." The channel has yet to announce the change in programming strategy.

After the U.S. war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Al Jazeera was see as anti-American and as inciting violence.

Owned by the privately held Al Jazeera Media Network, the Doha-based channel was initially launched as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel. Until 2011, Al Jazeera was owned by the government of Qatar.