Al Jazeera America, which launched Aug. 20 via the help of Qorvis Communications, knows that if it has any chance to earn a reputation as being more than a propaganda arm of its owner government of Qatar, it must present news without a pro-Arab tilt.
On that score, AJA is off to a good start. According to a Pew Research Center survey released Sept. 16, AJA is pretty much following the footsteps of its cable competitor CNN.
In measuring AJA’s initial Middle East crisis—Syria—the Arab network neatly duplicates the Turner Network property. Sixty-six percent of AJA’s Syria’s stories came from Obama administration sources, while Team Obama was the focus of 59 percent of CNN’s pieces.
CNN, in fact, presented greater coverage from a Syrian viewpoint by a 12 percent to seven percent margin. Despite AJA's extensive Middle Eastern bureau network, more datelines from there ran on CNN (20 percent) compared to (16 percent).
As for tone of message, 45 percent of CNN pieces had a U.S./allies should get involved compared to 43 percent on AJA. Both stations were even on the should-not-get-involved angle with each around 24 percent. BBC America, by contrast registered at 40 percent.
It’s understandable, yet disappointing, that AJA is mimicking CNN. An anti-American viewpoint would have been the kiss of death for AJA in its hunt for cable TV outlets.
However, the promise of AJA of offering global viewpoints to challenge American public opinion is a worthy goal. I hope it eventually fulfills that promise. We don’t need a CNN, Jr.