As Al Jazeera America Prepares For Launch, Dissent Inside The Company

By Alex Weprin Comment

Al Jazeera America’s launch is a month away, and as Joe Pompeo notes in NY Mag, it represents an extremely unusual event in the world of television: a totally new TV channel, not just a half-baked re-branding of an old one.

That said, the channel is already experiencing growing pains, well before it has launched. In The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald writes about internal strife at the channel, from Al Jazeera veterans concerned that the new venture will be nothing but a clone of CNN, or too obsequious to the U.S. government.

He also quotes from a long email from one of Al Jazeera’s most prominent journalists, Marwan Bishara, the host of “Empire,” sent to executives at the cable channel. You can read the entire email here.

It’s truly insulting to the greater majority of the Americans who I suspect want to watch us and support us that AJAM communicates with them through empty gimmicks and poor marketing theatrics. If we fail America around the launch time, it will be ever more difficult to salvage a tarnished image and compromised credibility.

AJAM has another problem that neither Greenwald, Pompeo or Bishara addressed: who exactly is going to lead the channel? Executives at Al Jazeera sought out both a CEO and a president/head of programming, with the CEO leading the business side and the president leading programming. Both roles remain unfilled, with only a short time til launch.  Typically a new president would fill in their own executive team, and make their own hires, especially on a new channel. AJAM however, has hired a slew of talent, and now has (almost) a full programming schedule, all without a leader to sign off on it.

The question for the new leaders of AJAM is, will they have the authority to make changes as they please? Or will they be stuck with whatever hand they have been dealt?