Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 02-08-2011
After years of striving to get carriage deals with pay-TV operators in the United States and failing, Al Jazeera, the voice of the Midde East, has finally got a toehold in New York City.
Al Jazeera English has started to lease space on a private network owned by the WRNN company. WRNN runs its own RNN-TV news channel, which will host one hour of programming from Al-Jazeera per week day, and will now host Time Warner's RISE channel and Verizon's FiOS 1 News to showcase content from the Middle East's premiere news organisation.
Al Jazeera is already running 23 hours per day on TWC's RISE, with Verizon FiOS to carry it soon. The network will reach 2 million homes in the city as well as parts of New Jersey and Westchester County.
RNN president Dick French said that Al-Jazeera will bring stories that are often under-reported from Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. The network already has a strong following in the city via its online presence, which launched six months ago, and expects to use that as a springboard to viewing audiences.
"We're delighted to now be on televisions across New York," said Al Anstey, managing director of Al Jazeera English, in a statement. "This launch has been fuelled by viewer demand. We are already part of the media landscape here, with one in ten people having got information on events in America and the world from our website this year alone. We get more web traffic from New York than any other city on earth."
Despite demand, the ability to bring televised reporting to audiences in the United States has been thwarted by nervous cable operators worried about potential consumer backlash for signing a deal with the mediaco that famously aired Osama bin Laden’s video manifestos across the Arabic world.
That narrative has softened in the wake of the Arab Spring, however, as politicians as diverse as John McCain and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have praised Al-Jazeera's role in providing in-depth coverage of the democratic upheaval in the Middle East, even in the face of official state blackouts and personal danger to the reporters.