Al Jazeera America got off to a good start with climate change coverage


Credit to Al Jazeera America for coming right out of the gate with a good half-hour panel on climate change, featuring three experts: Michael Mann from Penn State University, Heidi Cullen from Climate Central, and Klaus Jacob from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia. During its first day on the air, AJ America gave climate change nearly half as much coverage as all network news programs did during the entire year 2012, Media Matters for America reported. If AJ America carries forward the good example set previously by Al Jazeera English of prominent and intelligent coverage of climate change science and policy issues, it will be miles ahead of what we are used to seeing on most U.S. TV news and commentary.

Al Jazeera America, the new 24-hour news network, has a greatly expanded reach into the U.S. cable and satellite TV market beyond the far more limited availability that was achieved by the excellent Al Jazeera English. I am hopeful the new network will be an upgrade to most current U.S. TV news coverage of climate change and related issues, and much else in addition that could use a strong dose of good journalism.

Our friends at Media Matters for America had a very good post on the AJ America climate launch (“What Al Jazeera America Didn’t Say About Climate Change”) (excerpt here — see the full post):

During its first day on the air, Al Jazeera America gave climate change nearly half as much coverage as network news programs did during the year 2012, all while avoiding common pitfalls like providing false balance to those that deny the science and leaving the crisis’ manmade origins ambiguous.

The fledgling network’s first climate report comprised the entirety of Tuesday’s edition of Inside Story, a half-hour news discussion program that promises to “take an in-depth look at the story behind the headlines.” Indeed, the inaugural show featured a meaningful dialogue on — in guest Heidi Cullen’s words — “coming to terms with the fact that we’re all part of the problem … [and] the solution” to manmade global warming, and discussed consequences like extreme weather and rising sea levels. It never wavered on the veracity of the issue.

Al Jazeera America’s 30 minutes of climate coverage (about 24 minutes not including commercial breaks) represented nearly half of what was seen on all network nightly news programs in 2012, and more than what was featured by CNN’s Erin Burnett OutFront and Anderson Cooper 360 and Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor andHannity combined in the past four and a half months. …

I watched much of the first-day launch of AJ America and thought they got off to a solid, substantive, real journalism start, generally speaking. I was glad to see Inside Story coming right out of the gate with a climate change discussion. With all due respect to Inside America host Libby Casey, who I expect will do a very good job, I missed seeing Shihab Rattansi, the first-rate host of the Al Jazeera English version of Inside Story.

I hope AJ America doesn’t become just another U.S. news network like the others, i.e.: I hope it doesn’t become too-narrowly U.S.-centric in its interests and loses its global perspective. I hope it doesn’t lose Al Jazeera English’s strong emphasis on original news-gathering, with knowledgeable boots-on-the-ground reporters deployed far and wide to cover meaningful, substantive stories. I hope it doesn’t try to build a star system around its news and commentary anchors. I hope it doesn’t sacrifice serious news for coverage of celebrities, or spend days and weeks glued narrowly to the latest murder trial or disaster. I hope its commentators on the stories of the day are analysts with real subject matter expertise, and that we don’t see typical U.S. pundits who don’t know much beyond the U.S. political perturbations of the moment and their own biases. I hope the discourse is civil and that guests are not allowed to interrupt and talk over each other combatively.  And I hope it doesn’t get loaded up with 15 minutes or more per hour of commercials. In other words, I hope it gains some altitude above the current priorities, level of journalism, and commercialism typical of most U.S. TV news coverage. And if it does, I hope U.S. viewers will rise to the occasion and give it an audience.

Unfortunately, they have taken Al Jazeera English off of U.S. cable (mainly New York City and Washington, DC) and blocked U.S. access to live-streaming on the AJ English website. From the U.S., AJ English at now redirects to AJ America. If I’m not mistaken, AJ English continues to air in the rest of the world and is streamed online. I did note that a Google search on ‘Al Jazeera English’ brings up many links to specific pages on the AJ English website, which can be accessed this way — but no streaming or videos if you’re connecting from the U.S. Also, at least some of the many AJ English videos may still be accessed on YouTube.

Earlier posts:

“The US disconnect over climate change”

We joined scientists Michael Mann and Dana Nucitelli and host Shihab Rattansi on the Al Jazeera English “Inside Story Americas” program on May 17 to talk about the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, U.S. public opinion, the Keystone XL pipeline, geoengineering, and other aspects of the collision between climate science and government accountability.

On Obama’s Climate Action Plan: Q&A with Al Jazeera English

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4 Responses to Al Jazeera America got off to a good start with climate change coverage

  1. Leslie Graham says:

    It just shows how far science reporting has sunk in the US when a fairly ordinary discussion programme about the most pressing issue of the day is considered to be headline material because it didn’t include some lunatic paid climate denier for false ‘balance’.

  2. I want to see it. Where is the link to online on-demand ?

    It seem sort of old style broadcasting to require live viewers – it means that far fewer will see it. Kind of defacto censorship, isn’t it?

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      Here’s my understanding of the situation:
      Before Al Jazeera America launched, U.S. viewers could watch Al Jazeera English on a few cable stations or live-streaming on the AJE website (which also includes a fair amount of text and video clips). Al Jazeera English is a global network that potentially reaches something like 100 million homes via cable or satellite. I did maybe 13-14 appearances on AJ English during the past few years, doing commentary on climate change issues. When AJ America launched, Al Jazeera blocked access from the U.S. to Al Jazeera English on TV or live-streaming. I believe it’s an effort to steer people in the U.S. to AJ America and not have competition from AJ English.

      AJ America is not available via live-streaming online, to my knowledge. Neither are CNN, MSNBC, Fox, HLN, BBC, or Bloomberg, right? Correct me if I’m wrong. They are TV networks, not Internet networks, although they have websites. Do you watch any of them live-streaming online? Does Hulu have them, or someone else? I’m not familiar with that part of the online world (yet).

      AJ English was virtually shut out of the U.S. cable TV market. It was available in New York City, the Washington, DC, area, and a few other places, but generally the major cable providers wouldn’t carry it. In my opinion this was an unfortunate legacy of Al Jazeera being seen as controversial (or worse) during the Bush-Cheney regime and the Iraq war. I don’t speak Arabic and haven’t watched Al Jazeera in Arabic — do see the outstanding documentary film “Control Room” to learn more about AJ as a (quite legitimate) journalistic operation during the Iraq war period– but in my opinion AJ English has global news coverage with real journalism that is superior to that on any of the U.S. networks.

      Yes, Al Jazeera has made a strategic decision to try to reach the U.S. audience via “old style broadcasting” as you call it — some have argued that they should have gone all the way into the 21st century and operated entirely as an online network, but that’s not the way it went down, at least not yet. Right now AJ America is available to about 40 million (out of about 100 million?) cable subscribers in the U.S. I think they have a steep climb ahead of them if they’re going to take audience away from CNN, MSNBC, or PBS — or, as they intend, to grow the U.S. 24/7 TV news audience by doing more newsgathering, story-covering, and substantive discussion than the other networks are doing. We shall see.

      I don’t see it as “de facto censorship” that they don’t live-stream — or do the other networks? But, yes, it’s unfortunate that so many cable subscribers don’t get it now, and it would be good if it could be viewed online as well.

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