Pi Attitude Zone: Connectivity & Drive

Al Jazeera America: You Can Call Me Al

Why do people watch news on TV?  Is it:

Answer #1: To satisfy their curiosity about what’s really happening in the world?

Answer #2: To keep up with a cross-section of local, national, and global events and issues?

Answer #3: To reinforce their pre-existing personal world-views?

Answer #4: To nail the ‘lies’ being propagated by people of a different moral or political persuasion?

If you’re European, chances are you mentally checked answer #1 or #2.  If you’re American (and being brutally honest with yourself), it’s considerably more likely you would plump for answer #3 or #4.

The give-away is in the demographics of cable-TV news audiences in the USA.  Fox News viewers are enormously more likely to be older white males with a deeply and unshakably patriotic and conservative view of the world.  MSNBC viewers lean more towards younger college-educated viewers, especially women, and those with open-minded or liberal attitudes towards minorities and foreigners.  There is an almost oil-and-water separation at work here.  The two news sources also show dramatic differences in their affiliation to the main US political parties – no prizes for guessing which viewer group roots for the GOP and which for the Democrats.

Into this self-polarizing world of television news viewership comes the new Al Jazeera America service, launched in the Summer of 2013, and Fusion, now slated to debut in the Fall.  Fusion will be an English-language service for viewers with links to Hispanic cultures – hardly mainstream America.  For its part, Al Jazeera started in 1996 as a pan-Arabic satellite channel covering Mid-East news.  A decade later it launched a service in English, distributed internationally (but not in the US) via satellite and cable relays.  Now its owner, the Emir of Qatar, has bought into a cable network connected to 45 million American homes, and is offering an Americanized version of Al Jazeera alongside the regular cable station repertoire.

Given the attitudes of many red-blooded Americans to ‘alien’ Hispanics and ‘crazed Islamist’ Arabs,  will anyone watch either of these TV services?  Both will claim, with justification, that they are unbiased and well-sourced news services dedicated to showing that “the world is more complicated than you think”.  Both will face accusations of ‘foreign-ness’, the mildest of which will be that they view the world from the un-American end of the telescope.

Pi predicts that neither will be taken up by much more than a very small ethnic constituency.  To reach the wider American audience, both newscasts would have to overcome deep prejudices.  To hear a message, unfortunately, you have to want to. 

In Al Jazeera’s case, the message needs to more than just “You can call me Al”.

Zone: Connectivity & Drive Country: USA / North America Product – Communications