Al Jazeera America To Be Less Al Jazeera, More America

By Alex Weprin 

Al Jazeera has garnered a reputation across the globe for its international reportage. When the channel announced that it had acquired Current TV, and would be rebranding it as Al Jazeera America, the general assumption was that the new channel would be reflective of Al Jazeera’s programming heritage: serious news reporting, with a strong focus on international affairs.

The NY TimesBrian Stelter reports that the channel is shifting somewhat: now almost all programming will be unique to AJA (with less shared content from Al Jazeera English than originally planned) but will also have a strong U.S. focus.

That plan is no more. Now Al Jazeera America is aiming to have virtually all of its programming originate from the United States, according to staff members and others associated with the channel who were interviewed in recent weeks.

It will look inward, covering domestic affairs more often than foreign affairs. It will, in other words, operate much like CNN (though the employees say they won’t be as sensational) and Fox News (though they say they won’t be opinion-driven).

The programming strategy, more ambitious than previously understood, is partly a bid to gain acceptance and give Americans a reason to tune in. It may help explain why Al Jazeera America’s start date has been delayed once already, to August from July, and why some employees predict it will be delayed again.

It is an enormous risk for AJA, which is relying on its international namesake for credibility among serious news viewers. While certainly a U.S.-based TV network should have strong U.S. coverage, there isn’t currently a channel that specializes in international coverage.