It seems fitting to start the new year with a big bang: Al-Jazeera English has bought Current TV for a rumored $500 million. The story, first broken by The New-York Times, is of extreme importance because the Doha-based network will gain access to 40 million households. AJE had a problem gaining U.S. distribution and we correctly predicted it would buy shares within a media organization or acquire a channel. You have to give credit to a network that thought outside the box for a deal like this to occur, but there are some important items to think about.
1. Brand Recognition: Al-Jazeera English often gets mixed up with Al-Jazeera Arabic. While Hillary Clinton’s comments about the network got many to rethink their viewpoints, the network has a long way to go.
2. Revolving Door: It has become apparent that AJE has a problem retaining key talent. In 2011, Ayman Mohyeldin defected to NBC. Many who worked in the Washington bureau and presented for The Stream left to pursue other opportunities.
3. Imbalanced Reporting: The network had a great documentary on life within Baltimore’s inner city that dealt with drugs, crime, and death. But is the network trying to suggest that life is bleak for all African-Americans in America? It’s noteworthy as the BBC suffered from this sort of imbalanced reporting on life in the U.S. Rome Hartman, who served as an Executive Producer on BBC World News America, addressed this issue in an open forum. Fast-forward to 18:50 and you’ll get a sense of how the British broadcaster didn’t always get the story right in the past.