Al Jazeera, the Qatar based news network, has bought the cable channel, Current TV, from a consortium headed by former Vice President Al-Gore. The network, associated in the minds of many Americans with videos of Osama Bin Laden, faces resistance from several directions in the US media market.
Al Jazeera prides itself on being a “real television network”, and not one that bases a large amount of its programming on opinion centered content. That is the charge often leveled at American News Networks like Fox News and MSNBC. Even if it does offer unbiased coverage, the bias of audiences will surely affect the amount of viewers it can pull in.
Al Jazeera is wholly owned and funded by the government of Qatar. The tiny absolute monarchy has proved to be one of the most stable in the Arab world in recent years, and has used its large oil based wealth to influence the politics in the surrounding nations.
The most notable example of this is the behavior of Al Jazeera during the Arab Spring in 2011. As its broadcasts were blocked, the network moved them so that news could get through to those battling government forces. Al Jazeera may promise unbiased coverage, but it is not above political activism.
There are other questionable aspects of the news network. It is owned by the government of Qatar, which supplied resistance fighters during the Arab Spring with weapons, and continues to do so in Syria. Several of the groups it has funded and armed are regarded as terrorists by the US government.
Current TV was reportedly sold on the 3rd of January for $500 million. On the date of the sale, Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX) took the opportunity to dump Current TV from its service. The firm said the reasons behind the move was not political, but in the current environment, those considerations must have been taken into account.
Al Jazeera will not have an easy time entering the US media market. The name of the network will be objectionable enough for many to avoid its content. That content will have to be truly superior to attract an audience comparable to the size of that enjoyed by the current leaders in 24 hour news.
There will not, as many would have audiences believe, be a new found wave of jihadism and terrorism in the United States as a result of some cable providers offering a single Arab new channel to customers. Al Jazeera is not an extremist network, and the news it offers will not destroy American values.
It will be interesting to see the way in which the network tailors its content to attract an American audience. It might retain its current formats, and simply add personalities with American accents, or it may change entirely in order to directly compete with Fox, CNN and MSNBC.
Whatever the channel’s management chooses to do with the new property, it is unlikely to bring major change to the American media market. This is just another small episode of the major changes taking place in the arena.