Al Jazeera coming to America: Controversial network ready to hit U.S. TV markets

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But buying a channel and changing its format does not guarantee that cable providers will continue to carry the network. An Al Jazeera America spokeswoman said she could provide no information on cable providers.

Representatives for Verizon and Comcast, which broadcast Current TV, said they plan to carry the new network.

Entering the crowded U.S. market, where Fox News dominates cable news viewership, is another big step for a company that began in 1996 as an obscure Arabic-language channel funded by Qatari oil and natural gas money.

Today, Al Jazeera is a brand name, boasting a global news operation of 70 bureaus and entree into 260 million households. It added Al Jazeera English in 2006, opening cable, satellite and Web markets around the world, including Europe and the United States. AJE has a decidedly anti-America spin, a review of its website and programming shows.

Al Jazeera has won several prestigious citations from America’s liberal press, such as a 2012 Polk Award for the documentary “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark,” about the repression of the Arab Spring protests there. It also earned an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award for a documentary on post-earthquake Haiti.

In July, Al Jazeera broke a story on Pakistan’s investigative report on the 2011 U.S. raid that killed bin Laden. The report lambasted the military for not detecting the helicopter incursion and criticized the government’s failure to locate the al Qaeda leader, who had holed up for years in a walled compound in Abbottabad.

The Washington press generally lauded its 24/7 coverage of the 2011 popular uprising in Cairo that ultimately deposed strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Trouble with reporters

The Al Jazeera story, however, has another side.

“The first problem with Al Jazeera in the United States is it presents itself as if it is a news organization in the mold of CNN or Fox or MSNBC, when in fact it is a government-sponsored news agency,” said Shoshana Bryen of the conservative Jewish Policy Center, which backs Israel and U.S. defense.

“In the Cold War years, we used to know if you read Pravda or Izvestia, you were reading the Russian government,” Ms. Bryen said. “So the first problem is, this is an arm of the government of Qatar presenting itself as if it is independent news. The government of Qatar promotes and pays for a lot of things people in the United States would find abhorrent, like the Muslim Brotherhood, like Hamas, like the ‘Arabification’ of Jerusalem.”

Sheik Hamad and Al Jazeera suffered a major setback in Egypt this month when the military ousted the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government and worked to appoint non-Islamists to a transitional government.

In the middle of the crisis, 22 Al Jazeera staffers in Egypt quit — and some went public with the network’s dirty laundry: Headquarters in Doha, Qatar, was demanding pro-Brotherhood reporting, they charged.

“The management in Doha provokes sedition among the Egyptian people and has an agenda against Egypt and other Arab countries,” former anchor Kareem Mahmood told the Gulf News.

Asked about former staffers in Cairo quitting and accusing Doha of bias, an Al Jazeera spokesman provided this statement:

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