1 Aug 2011

Qatar-based broadcaster has struck a deal with US network Time Warner Cable, taking it to around 2m homes in the region

The English-language arm of Arabic news channel Al Jazeera has launched on a US cable network in New York.

At midnight last night, Al Jazeera English (AJE) began broadcasting on US network Time Warner Cable, taking it to around 2 million homes in the region.

Six months on from the eruption of widespread protest across the Middle East, the agreement follows the most high-profile period in the history of the Qatar-based news channel.

In the immediate aftermath of the uprisings, some US media commentators – including Jeff Jarvis – called for US cable networks to add Al Jazeera, claiming that it was "downright un-American not to". AJE was at that point only available online to viewers in the US.

AJE's Arabic sister channel has been viewed with suspicion by the US, and was criticised by George Bush during his presidency after airing video messages from Osama Bin Laden. Its newsrooms were also bombed by the US in both Afghanistan and Iraq, although US authorities claimed the strikes were mistakes.

AJE, on the other hand, won praise from the US administration for its coverage of the uprisings in the Arab world, with secretary of state Hilary Clinton saying that the channel was airing "real news".

"Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news, which is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."

Al Anstey, managing director of AJE, told the New York Times that early meetings with US networks had been about trying to correct "myths and misconceptions" about the AJE, but that now they don't come up.

Anstey added that the channel, which receives some funding from the Qatari finance ministry, will not be seeking the per-subscriber fee common to most US cable channels. "Revenue is not our priority," he said. "It’s being seen."



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