If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? That's a question that has long occupied the minds of budding philosophers and college students with much time on their hands.
Likewise, if a cable network launches and nobody is around to watch it, does it have any impact on the media scene?
We'll find out tomorrow. Welcome, Al Jazeera America.
Moments ago, my pals at AJA sent along the latest electronic bulletin. It urges me to tune in tomorrow "and be one of our first viewers." I get a nagging feeling that I’ll be one of the only ones tuning into the cable network that is bankrolled by the Government of Qatar.
AJA has done an outstanding job in recruiting the best and the brightest stars of the U.S. media in its effort to offer "unbiased, fact-based and in-depth journalism." They promise viewing fare that is a far cry from AJ’s old days of serving as mouthpiece for the rants of Osama bin Ladin.
AJA's starting line-up includes veterans, such as John Seigenthaler (ex-NBC anchor), David Shuster (NBC/MSNBC/Fox), Sheila MacVicar (CNN), Andrea Stone (USA Today), Tony Karow (Time) and Joie Chen (CNN News). My personal favorite, NBC News/CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, is the clean-up hitter for Team AJA.
Sadly, Americans haven’t been sold on AJA. And it’s a tough sell. [Washington’s Qorvis Communications, which has repped Saudi Arabia since 9/11, is working the network’s launch.] AJA CEO Ehab Al Shihabi said last week that 75 percent of Americans haven’t seen any of its coverage but still have a negative view of it.
The lack of respect from advertisers could be even a bigger blow to the network’s hopes. AJA will launch with only six minutes of commercial airtime per-hour. That’s half of what the typical network carries.
It’s unfortunate for AJA that the nation’s advertising capital is New York City, which also was Ground Zero on 9/11. Ad buyers have little sympathy for a network that they think is a supporter for global jihad. AJA desperately needs the "third-party endorsement" of national advertisers. Without it, the network will be perceived as propaganda tool of Qatar. That’s a sure-fire way to lose any shred of credibility.
Good luck, AJA. America certainly needs a global perspective to international news. Also, the media could use a shot-in-the-arm to stoke their competitive fires.
I’ll be cheering for you, AJA.