Will Aljazeera America save us?

July 17, 2014 - 5:22:12 am
Qatari columnist Abdul-Aziz Al Mahmud

By Abdul-Aziz Al Mahmud 

Okay, it is Ramadan time, and people do not want to read any topic related to waste of public money or the media. 

So what do you think of the media wasting public money! Let me shout to acquit myself, may someone listen, as this is not my first article on the same issue. I wrote before an article entitled ‘Save Aljazeera America’, and this time I prefer to use the above title for the same topic.

In July 9, 2014, Jack Shafer from Router, wrote a long, ironic report entitled ‘Which is more scarce — rhinoceros or Aljazeera America viewers? 

He talked about the satellite TV channel, which is working among a huge number of media facilities in the US. We have to differentiate in this regard between Aljazeera English and Aljazeera America, which I mean here. 

Let me first explain to the reader how Aljazeera America appeared, how it has been purchased, and why?

Former US vice-president Al Gore used to have a TV channel called ‘Current TV’, which had only 35,000 viewers in the US during its peak period. 

Therefore, it has been considered a failed channel and the owner must get rid of it, because its existence is worse than having it. 

Al Gore then sold the channel to Aljazeera for half a billion dollars. Around another half a billion was spent on its development and renewal of its facilities, beside another amount, which is not disclosed, paid for the cable company to add it to its package to enter 55 million homes in the US, and the channel is still spending extra hundreds of millions of dollars to open another 12 regional offices, according to the same writer.  (http://america.aljazeera.com/tools/contact.html) 

It is surprising to see the number of viewers declining to 15,000 at its peak time, and making short comparison with other American channels reveals the problem. For instance, Fox News has 1.6 million viewers, CNN has 460,000 and Aljazeera America has only 15,000. This made the channel a subject of jokes in the US media. (http://goo.gl/oRGH3c) 

The writer added: “As if the US says (shrugging) ‘come on, spend your millions, employ whoever you want, fill your news room with journalists whom you could buy, fill the place with letters, build modern studios, and there will be more shrugs… even if the American citizen has tumbled in your TV channel, he will remain shrugging”.   

In his famous comedy programme watched by millions of Americans, Leno Weighing said addressing Aljazeera America: “You know that you are very boring, when the people realise that the former US vice-president Al Gore is more entertaining than you.” (http://goo.gl/HFLT7J)

David Zurawil wrote in Baltimore Sun that the channel lost 48 percent of its viewers between 2005 and 2013, which means that Aljazeera America is looking for viewers who are on their way to extinction. (http://goo.gl/NbvLHz)

I do not want to make Aljazeera America bear more than its capacity, because it is working in wasp nests or let me say in Dinosaur Forest, and its name may be one of the problems facing the channel as some have said.  

Under such circumstances, is it not our duty to review its role, vision, work and budget? 

Aljazeera America would not save us as we were expecting, rather it made us a target of media campaigns, which we cannot confront. Aljazeera America became a live example in the US for a failed project on which more money is being spent, and this is ridiculous in itself.

The Peninsula