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Pintak attributed the difference in the two Al Jazeera channels’ broadcasts in part to the fact that the staff of the network’s English language channel is largely made up of journalists trained in the West, where historically government control of media has been less direct. The audience being addressed also affects the coverage, he said.
Levin vowed that CAMERA would monitor Al-Jazeera America’s broadcasts closely when they appeared and would contact producers if it found questionable content. Pintak emphasized the need to set aside any biases monitors might have due to Al-Jazeera’s Arabic service while conducting such monitoring.
Philip Seib, director of the Center on Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, said that even those who disagree with Al-Jazeera’s coverage could still benefit from exposure to its different perspective.
“Even for people who are very supportive of Israel, watching Al-Jazeera, which has very good coverage of the Arab world, is going to be a valuable asset,” he said. “They can get a sense of what’s going on in the Arab world that most American news providers don’t give their viewers.”
Seib stressed that, as with any media outlet, viewers should be aware of Al-Jazeera’s ownership structure. But he said Americans could benefit from seeing news about themselves through a more global lens.
According to news reports, 60% of Al-Jazeera America’s programming will be produced in the United States; 40% will come from Al-Jazeera English-language bureaus abroad. The network has bureaus in more than 70 countries, with a staff of more than 1,000 from 50 nationalities.
The already established Al-Jazeera English, which reaches an estimated 250 million households in 150 countries, currently has bureaus in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, reaching 4.7 million homes in America. According to the network, Al-Jazeera America intends to open offices in several more cities, increasing its staff to 300 with a headquarters in New York City.
“I think it’s going to be interesting to watch,” Pintak said. Ultimately, he added, the marketplace of ideas will decide Al-Jazeera America’s fate. “A lot of people will be getting their resumes ready” In the meantime, he said.