Arts, Culture & Media

Al Jazeera expansion to U.S. met with both skepticism and support for diverse perspectives

Al Jazeera's main television studio at its headquarters in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Liam Wyatt via Wikimedia Commons).

Al Jazeera, the satellite television network backed by the government of Qatar, is coming to the United States. 

In January, the network bought Al Gore's Current TV for $500 million to help launch the new Al Jazeera America network that will reach more than 40 million subscribers.

While some question the station's funding, others applaud the network for offerring a new perspective and its recent coverage of the Arab Spring.

Traci Griffith, chair of the media studies, journalism and digital arts department at St. Michael's College, says that launching Al Jazeera America will be beneficial for the American public and journalists because the station will offer a different perspective than American news outlets.

But the station has received criticism for its coverage of America. Yigal Carmon, a former advisor to Israeli Prime Ministers who now heads the Middle East Media Research Institute, said in an interview with CNN that Al Jazeera has an anti-American bias and is used by the Qatari government as an arm of foreign policy.

But Griffith says she doesn't hear the "agenda" that Carmon is referring to in the network's programs and adds that most Americans who watch Al Jazeera do so with skepticism.

"Any kind of media literacy that allows us to analyze the media and maybe the agenda that many of the media companies have, that's a good thing," she said.

Griffith uses Al Jazeera as a resource in her class but says her students are still skeptical of the network's coverage. 

"I think they have been conditioned to be skeptical of most of what comes out of the Arab world because of the media they consume here within the United States," she says.

But students with an international perspective who have spent time abroad, Griffith says, will be among those interested in working for a news outlet like Al Jazeera as an alternative to American news outlets.

The Columbia Journalism Review reports that Al Jazeera received 18,000 applications for the network's nearly 200 jobs in the United States.

The new Al Jazeera America is scheduled to go on the air in July.

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