Academic journal article Global Media Journal

An Al-Jazeera Effect in the US? A Review of the Evidence

Academic journal article Global Media Journal

An Al-Jazeera Effect in the US? A Review of the Evidence

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the last decade and a half, the Al Jazeera media network has made tremendous efforts to penetrate the US market, in what has possibly been the most ambitious attempt in history by a nonWestern media network to broadcast to the heart of the world's leading Western power. Qatari-sponsored Al Jazeera's attempts to enter the US market were largely in response to growing interest in images from the battle zones of the Middle East and the Arab world following 9/11. Al Jazeera's efforts to implant itself in the US market as a legitimate and credible news source can be divided into three phases that correspond to the successive launch of various Al Jazeera media network platforms targeting US audiences. The first phase started after 9/11, when Al Jazeera Arabic signed content exchange agreements with leading US news stations that sought the use of its exclusive images from the Afghani battle zone and its exclusive videos featuring Al-Qaeda's leaders. The launch of Al Jazeera English television channel in November 2006 indicates the beginning of the second phase, designed to reach English-speaking television viewers, and finally, the launch of Al Jazeera America in August 2013 represents the third and most recent attempt to target US audiences specifically by creating the look and feel of a local US channel.

In light of Al Jazeera's export of its news materials to the US, various voices over the years have argued that dissemination of the channel's news materials in the West promotes the advent of an Arab perspective to the US. Volkmer [1] argues that the global spread of Al Jazeera's images during the war in Afghanistan constitutes the birth of "...a new dimension in the global news flow, which not only refines domestic and foreign news in national journalism in times of crisis but also the news angle of transnational networks, such as CNN." [2]. El-Kikhia and Iskandar [3] posit that Al Jazeera footage forced the Arab perspective on the Bush Administration. The titles of several works, such as Al-Jazeera: The Story Of The Network That Is Rattling Governments And Redefining Modern Journalism [3] and The Role of New Arab Satellite Channels in Fostering Intercultural Dialogue: Can Al Jazeera English Bridge the Gap? [4], further testify to the popularity of the notion that Al Jazeera promotes an Arab perspective in the US. Finally and importantly, in their comprehensive evaluation of the Al Jazeera effect in the West, Powers and El-Nawawy [5,6] found that a greater amount of AJEviewing correlated with decreased dogmatic views.

While most of these studies examined the Al Jazeera effect during a particular episode, such as the use of exclusive Al Jazeera images from the battlefield in Afghanistan [1,2,7] the launch of Al Jazeera English or the Arab Spring [8], and thus often offer anecdotal findings, this paper aims to encompass the majority of studies on Al-Jazeera presence in the US since 9/11 using a comprehensive analysis of the literature on Al Jazeera interplay with the US during the three phases mentioned above, as well as a study of Al-Jazeera America Twitter profile followers (in light of the scarce literature on Al Jazeera America) with the aim to reach a more inclusive conclusion regarding the overall evidence regarding whether Al Jazeera's activities in the last 15 years was about to promote an Arab perspective in the US.

The analysis, thus, is divided into three periods, each focusing on past evaluations of a specific Al Jazeera platform that also represents a particular phase in Al Jazeera's development and efforts to target the US using a variety of platforms and incarnations. The study begins with an analysis of the representation of Al Jazeera Arabic's news material during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001-3, then moves to document the attempts by Al Jazeera English TV channel to gain distribution on US cable and satellite audiences around since its November 2006 launch and finally, it examines the reception of Al Jazeera America, specifically via evaluation of the profile and activity patterns of Al Jazeera America Twitter followers. …

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