It has been almost two months since Al Jazeera America (AJA), the American outlet of Qatar-based news network Al Jazeera, debuted in the U.S. Viewers of the network note its impressive graphics and lack of commercials, a welcomed change of pace compared to most cable news in the States. The network also employs a host of familiar faces that help bolster AJA's image as just another news network. It remains to be seen just how radical AJA will let its coverage becomes once it grows more assured of its acceptance into the mainstream. Already AJA's Sunni sponsors have let the mask slip.
Despite a petition drive to exclude AJA from cable distribution, AJA's coverage is definitely on the rise. Last spring and summer, AJA went on a hiring spree, hiring producers, writers, technicians, and hundreds of other staffers. AJA also snapped up big news names like Joie Chen, David Shuster and Soledad O'Brien, and then opened 12 American bureau offices. Broadcasting began August 20.
Of course, AJA is not just another news network. AJA's parent company, Al Jazeera, is owned by the government of Qatar, the tiny, oil-rich, Sunni Muslim state in the Persian Gulf, bordering Saudi Arabia. Qatar is ruled by Shiekh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who, despite his personal business dealings with Israel, is pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Israel. Al Jazeera's news coverage has reflected those views.