Thursday, December 14, 2017
TV and Media

Bright House viewers in Tampa Bay may miss Al Jazeera America debut

If you're unfamiliar with the current, disappointing state of cable TV news, it might seem like a joke: a news channel aiming for success by addressing a niche viewer underserved by America's cable landscape.

That niche? People who want actual news reporting on their cable news channels.

But even as Al Jazeera America officially takes over the Current TV channel Tuesday, promising to attract viewers with hard news reporting that avoids celebrities, pundits and sensationalism, most Tampa Bay viewers may not have a chance to participate in this bold experiment.

That's because Time Warner Cable, which also negotiates programming from Bright House Networks here and in Orlando, decided to drop Current TV not long after its sale to Al Jazeera was announced. (Verizon FiOS will carry the channel.)

A spokesman for Al Jazeera said Time Warner's decision came after months of dissatisfaction with Current's ratings and that negotiations for carriage are ongoing. But local Bright House viewers may not see this effort to attract viewers without the fluffy staples of cable news.

"I was not interested in doing one-minute (bits) on the same story everybody else was doing," said Joie Chen, a former anchor and correspondent for CBS and CNN who left the news business in 2008. "At Al Jazeera America, the focus has been on great, longform storytelling, like stories I contributed to CBS Sunday Morning. But you're trying to do it every night."

Chen was hired to anchor America Tonight, Al Jazeera America's flagship newscast. She joins a long, ethnically and culturally diverse list of expatriates who once worked at rival news channels: Soledad O'Brien, Ali Velshi and Sarah Hoye from CNN; John Seigenthaler and David Shuster from MSNBC; and Antonio Mora from ABC News. The channel's new president, Kate O'Brian, was a 30-year veteran of ABC News.

Their stories, fleshed out in practice broadcasts last week, are built around a hard news approach developed in Al Jazeera's Arabic- and English-language channels.

Their hope is U.S. audiences drowning in cable TV news partisan food fights might respond to a more, um, fair and balanced approach.

"Every person I talk to in the general public has the same complaint. TV news has become right and left, this back-and-forth, Crossfire kind of thing," Chen said. "There's an audience of people interested in probing deeply into issues."

Ironically, though the channel bears Al Jazeera's name, not many of the American channel's anchors are from cultures or ethnicities descended from the Middle East. That's likely by design, said Mohammed el-Nawawy, co-author of a 2002 book on the rise of Al Jazeera, which began in the mid '90s as an independent, all-Arab television news network funded by the government of Qatar.

"They want to make sure they are not too foreign," said el-Nawawy, a professor at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. "They want to emphasize both the America and the Al Jazeera in the channel."

Criticized years ago for airing videos supplied by Osama bin Laden, Al Jazeera has since earned journalism awards in America and respect for the substantive reporting on its English channel.

Leveraging an estimated $500 million to buy Current from former Vice President Al Gore and opening 12 bureaus across America, Al Jazeera America debuts Tuesday to 48 million TV households. Its success depends on the notion that old-school journalism can still draw an audience and that U.S. resistance to a news channel with an Arabic name has receded.

"If we take the resources given us and recreated the same thing you could see anywhere on cable news, we would have failed our mission," said Chen, noting there has been no talk of ratings targets or viewership expectation. "I've been around newsrooms a long time, and I can tell you: I've never seen this much excitement."

Comments

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingSuper lightweights: Vargas vs. Herrera10 p.m.FS1College basketballWomen: Southern at USF7 p.m.1040-AMMaryland-Eastern Shore at Creighton8 p.m.FS1College footballDivision III, final: Mount Union (Ohio) vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor (Texas)7 p.m.ES...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Harry Potter’s Nymphadora Tonks, Natalia Tena, joins A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

Harry Potter’s Nymphadora Tonks, Natalia Tena, joins A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando

The bubble gum pink-haired, shape-shifting witch Nymphadora Tonks from the last four Harry Potter films is headed to A Celebration of Harry Potter next month.Natalia Tena marks her first appearance at the annual wizarding world celebration Jan. 26-28...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

Disney-Fox deal gives ESPN control of local cable rights to Rays, Lightning games

As part of its deal to buy a massive package of 21st Century Fox assets, Disney will acquire Fox Sports Regional Networks, which control the local cable rights to a slew of professional teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning.Assu...
Published: 12/14/17
Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

Poll: Most Americans say 'Merry Christmas' and prefer Rudolph over Charlie Brown

The Monmouth University Polling institute released the results of their Christmas poll today.
Published: 12/14/17

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingSuper Bantamweights: Salgado vs. Diego De La Hoya10:30 p.m.ESPN2College basketballBethune-Cookman at USF7 p.m.820-AMValparaiso at Northwestern8 p.m.Big TenSouthern at Baylor8:30 p.m.ESPN2College volleyball, NCAA semifinalsNebraska vs. Penn...
Published: 12/13/17
Uber Eats is delivering 'free' chicken McNuggets across Tampa Bay

Uber Eats is delivering 'free' chicken McNuggets across Tampa Bay

You'll still have to pay the delivery fee, but the 10-piece McNuggets are free.
Published: 12/13/17

Wednesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBoxingWelterweights: Corcoran vs. Horn6:30 a.m.ESPNCollege basketballWomen: McNeese State at Baylor1 p.m.Fox SunVillanova at Temple7 p.m.ESPN2Women: Oregon at Mississippi State7 p.m.SECWestern Kentucky at Wisconsin8 p.m.FS1Longwood at Illinois8 ...
Published: 12/12/17
Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Video: Jimmy Kimmel holds his baby son, post-heart surgery, in emotional health-care monologue

Jimmy Kimmel was absent from his ABC late-night show last week while his 8-month-old son, Billy, recovered from his second heart surgery. Ever since Billy was born with a heart defect and required immediate surgery, Kimmel has become an outspoken adv...
Published: 12/12/17

Tuesday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMississippi State vs. Cincinnati7 p.m.ESPN2Fordham at Rutgers7 p.m.ESPNUSt. Peter’s at Seton Hall7 p.m.FS1Michigan at Texas9 p.m.ESPN2Albany at Memphis9 p.m.ESPNUNBALakers at Knicks7 p.m.ESPN76ers at Timberwolves9:30 p.m.ESPNNH...
Published: 12/11/17
What to watch this week: New season of ‘The Librarians,’ Gwen Stefani’s Christmas special

What to watch this week: New season of ‘The Librarians,’ Gwen Stefani’s Christmas special

MondaySEASON FINALE: The Gifted, 9 p.m., Fox: The team at Mutant HQ is divided on what to do next after Jace is forced to hand over something valuable to Dr. Campbell.Disney's Fairytale Weddings: Holiday Magic, 8 p.m., Freeform: A behind-the-scenes l...
Published: 12/11/17