Al Jazeera: Global change in the media environment

This is from an AFP report about the launch of Al Jazeera's English language news channel:

Dave Marash, the news channel's Washington-based anchor ... told AFP ... "E[]verybody in American journalism is at worst curious and at best really interested, and even admiring, of what Al Jazeera English is all about."

For Marash, 64, a lifelong and well-respected broadcast newsman who formerly worked for the American network ABC, the hallmark of Al Jazeera English (AJE) is to bring a non-Western perspective of world events to viewers and to challenge the global news supremacy of CNN and the BBC.

"All of our competitors, CNN International, BBC World and the American networks, concentrate about 80 percent of their news gathering resources in Western Europe and North America," he said, sitting in his small office at the network's Washington hub. "Al Jazeera English is going to concentrate about 80 percent of our news gathering outside of North America and Western Europe."

There quite a lot of Al Jazeera stuff on Youtube, just search for 'Al Jazeera' to find it (or click here).

Some of it is impressive.

For example, look at the Africa coverage contained in the ten minutes of Al Jazeera news in the Youtube clip below.

The first news item is predictably about dodgy doings in Israel, but watch the clip beyond the Israel news, and ask yourself the question: Why can't China do this?

There are currently 2 Comments for Al Jazeera: Global change in the media environment.

Comments on Al Jazeera: Global change in the media environment

Why can't they do it? Off hand, I'd say:

* The fossilized rules and standards that Chinese overseas broadcast journalists are indoctrinated with (and domestic as well), specifically the idea that they are "explaining China" and represent China, rather than investigators. Even if one concedes journalists are biased to their own nation anywhere, the principles of cosmopolitan international correspondents from other parts of the world cut against that, whereas the ideals imbued in Chinese journalists embed that loyalty. While many Chinese journalists are just as savvy as their foreign counterparts, the organizations are not.

* That perspective makes CCTV and other Chinese international media outlets incapable of recognizing that a great deal of professional journalists across the world wanted to do something with more depth and complexity than CNN - the journalists that AJI has helped itself to.

* A lack of funding from the government, in contrast to the huge subsidization afforded AJI. CCTV may have a big building, but they have not been given the investment to aggressively attempt to build a global English network overnight like AJI. Perhaps they're on a slow boat from China?

Chinese international media is constantly hammered with doctrine about "explaining China" and other national baggage. Al Jazeera Arabic spends very little time talking about Qatar - that means it is criticized for neglecting its own backyard, but it always shaped itself as a Pan-Arab Middle East network. AJI is probably going to cover Qatar even less, and is aiming to be an international English network.

CCTV, by contrast, is staffed with reporters who are constantly inundated with the task of "explaining China" to the world. I seriously doubt anyone at Qatar, if told their mission was to "explain Qatar", would do anything but laugh. The organization is too heavy with ideological and state interests to attempt to adapt to the marketplace quickly, create an atmosphere that attracts many disillusioned professional foreign journalists from other countries or even invest enough to not have to rely on Reuters footage for a disaster in its own backyard (tsunami). AJI, by contrast, has all those bases covered.

Rupert Murdoch tried to teach them a thing or two by giving them a couple of consultants, but at the end of the day the bigwigs probably don't want to be AJI, CNN or the BBC. But hey, the French have an international satellite station coming up, the Russians have looked into one and Hugo Chavez might decide to hire an English newsteam at any moment if he has one too many Scotch. China may be waiting to see everybody leap first.

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