- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network, yesterday announced that its English-language television news channel, Al Jazeera International, will debut Nov. 15.

The rollout will mark the world’s first English-language news channel based in the Middle East. The channel’s first broadcast will originate from Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar, at 7 a.m. EST.

Al Jazeera International “will provide a fresh approach to news and current affairs” with “a combination of 12 hours of live news plus interview programs and in-depth features and analysis from the world’s hot spots,” the company said.

Al Jazeera, famously denounced as a propaganda organ by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, was the subject of a 2004 documentary, “Control Room,” that examined the network’s coverage of the war in Iraq.

The new channel boasts broadcast centers in Doha; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London; and Washington. The D.C. bureau features Viviana Hurtado, a CNN Espanol veteran, and former CNBC Washington correspondent Rob Reynolds.

Al Jazeera International “offers the chance to reach out to a new audience that is used to hearing the name ‘Al Jazeera’ without being able to watch it or understand its language,” said Wadah Khanfar, the network’s director-general.

France, not to be outdone, announced yesterday that it will roll out a round-the-clock international news channel in December to challenge the “Anglo-Saxon” views of market leaders CNN and BBC. “France 24” will broadcast in both French and English.

No word yet on what kind of seat assignment its Washington correspondent can expect at White House briefings.

‘Fair Game’

Public radio is no longer just for baby boomers and news junkies, it turns out.

WETA 91.9 FM on Friday will join nearly a dozen other public radio stations in debuting “Fair Game from PRI with Faith Salie,” a one-hour weekday evening broadcast that host Ms. Salie describes as the radio “love child” of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

“What we share with ‘The Daily Show’ is an inclination to reach out to younger listeners and an irreverent, skeptical take on hard news,” said Ms. Salie, a comedienne who previously starred on Bravo’s improvisational sitcom, “Significant Others.”

“Unlike ‘The Daily Show,’ we don’t just cover politics. We like to think of it as the evolution of the variety show.”

“Fair Game” will feature interviews with newsmakers and celebrities, along with musical and comedic performances. Field correspondents will also contribute to the program, tackling, in Ms. Salie’s words, “such weighty issues” as the Miss Adams Morgan Pageant, an annual drag-queen event in Northwest.

“There’s also a lot of unscripted, spontaneous interaction with random phone-call recipients,” Ms. Salie added.

Minneapolis-based Public Radio International is producing the show, which will be taped at WNYC New York Public Radio’s studios. Other PRI programs include the “This American Life” with Ira Glass and “The Tavis Smiley Show.”

Ms. Salie, a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar, described the show’s targeted demographic of twenty- and thirtysomethings as an audience somewhat “ignored” by traditional public radio programs.

To court younger listeners, Ms. Salie will use the Web to solicit feedback from listeners, such as band recommendations and suggested questions for guests.

“Fair Game” is intended “both to amuse and to challenge their way of thinking,” Ms. Salie said. “I think that comedy, when it has a point and when it’s rooted in fact, can be just about the most provocative tool there is in terms of shaking people’s consciousness.”

The show is slated to debut nationally in January. WETA will air “Fair Game” on Fridays at 10 p.m.

Welcome back, Bob

As of last Monday, viewers tuning in to WTTG Fox 5 Morning News were greeted by a new face.

Bob Sellers joined the affiliate from Fox News Channel in New York, where he anchored “Fox News Live.”

As a new co-anchor of Fox 5’s morning newscast, Mr. Sellers joins co-anchors Lark McCarthy, Gurvir Dhindsa, Steve Cheveney and Allison Seymour, along with field anchor Holly Morris and meteorologist Tony Perkins.

Unlike his national gigs — before Fox News, Mr. Sellers was at CNBC, where he anchored “Market Watch” and “Today’s Business” — Mr. Sellers said he looks forward to showing local viewers more of his personality.

“When you’re talking Middle East conflict, you’re not going to throw in a joke or anything,” he said. “This is a format which allows me to use a little more personality than straight news.”

Mr. Sellers might be a new face to some in the Washington area, but he has local roots — he attended W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax and graduated from the University of Virginia.

He replaced former Fox morning anchor Michael Gargiulo, who joined WNBC in New York.

Channel Surfing runs on Wednesdays. Kara Rowland can be reached at 202/636-3139 or [email protected]

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