Al Jazeera English now available in New York as push for wider U.S. footprint continues

Joe Pompeo
Media Reporter
The Cutline

Thanks to its celebrated coverage of the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera has gone from being a news organization condemned and feared by United States power brokers to one praised by American dignitaries and politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and John McCain.

The 24-hour Arabic news channel's sister-network, Al Jazeera English, meanwhile, has been pushing for real estate from U.S. cable providers. Al-Jazeera English (AJE) continues to build up its audience here thanks to the heightened online presence it reaped in the wake of the Middle East uprisings earlier this year.

AJE, which got off the ground in 2006, had been available in a mere three American markets--Washington D.C.; Toldeo, Ohio; and Burlington, Vt. But that changed at midnight Monday, when the network launched on Time Warner Cable in New York City.

AJE's managing director, Al Anstey, told the Huffington Post that the network would likewise soon become available toVerizon FiOS customers in New York, and that it would be expanding its news-gathering operations later this year with new bureaus in Chicago and Miami on top of its existing hubs in New York, D.C. and Los Angeles.

"Obviously, the United States is a hugely important country," he told HuffPo's Michael Calderone. "What happens here -- not just in the corridors of the White House or in the financial district of New York City -- what happens across this country so often ripples out worldwide. What happens in America is relevant worldwide and what happens worldwide is relevant to America."

But as the New York Times' Brian Stelter reports, AJE arrives in New York only as part of an arrangement with an existing channel, RISE, which will offer AJE 23 hours a day and air local programming for the 24th. Needless to say, it's still an uphill battle.

"Al Jazeera does not have a parent company with powerful assets, as the News Corporation did when it used the huge popularity of Fox News to gain channel space for a spinoff, Fox Business, a few years ago.," writes Stelter. "Nor does it have proof that millions are clamoring to watch."

AJE has nevertheless launched a campaign urging potential viewers to "demand" that their local TV providers start carrying the channel. The campaign also encourages tweets using the #DemandAlJazeera hash tag and meet-ups of AJE supporters.

"Ever since Al Jazeera has been on the air people have been saying that Americans are not interested in international news,"  says AJE Cairo correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin in a video to fans. "Well I can tell you that you guys have proven them absolutely wrong."