Al Jazeera America’s Inauspicious Debut

Al Jazeera debuted its American broadcast Tuesday. Fewer Americans have access to Al Jazeera than they did Monday.


Al Jazeera debuted its American broadcast Tuesday. Fewer Americans have access to Al Jazeera than they did Monday.

NYT (“Al Jazeera Makes Limited American Debut“):

There was ample attention in journalistic circles as Al Jazeera America had its premiere on Tuesday — particularly among those who could not watch.

The news channel — which replaced Current TV at 3 p.m. Eastern time — was expected to be carried by five of the country’s 10 biggest television providers, but one of those, AT&T U-verse, dropped Current, and thus Al Jazeera, late Monday night.


People who were curious about the new channel but were not able to access it on TV found that they could not access it online, either. It is not being live-streamed on the Internet, much to the disappointment of a small but vocal group of longtime Al Jazeera viewers in the United States.

Those fans had grown accustomed to watching the pan-Arab broadcaster’s existing English-language news channel, called Al Jazeera English, via the Internet. But on Monday, Al Jazeera English turned off its live stream for users in the United States. It also started to geo-block the news reports it posts on YouTube, so that instead of seeing the videos, American users saw a message that said, “The uploader has not made this video available in your country.”

Al Jazeera officials said privately that in the run-up to the premiere of the new American channel, they had little choice but to acquiesce to cable and satellite providers, which generally discourage online competition of the kind that Al Jazeera English previously represented. In effect they have sacrificed Internet distribution for a shot at traditional distribution.

It’s awfully early and, given that the channel is carried on the big satellite providers, it’s actually available in more homes than Fox News or MSNBC were when they launched. But it’s also a different world now.  The network needs to figure out how to get back into live-streaming mode pronto, even if it requires registration proving that the customer is paying for access via their cable or satellite provider.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brett says:

    I have been quite sad to discover that I can no longer get Al Jazeera over the Mhz networks in the DC area – before I could get it on the antenna, but starting yesterday it was replaced by some Chinese channel. Really kind of sad.

  2. Ben says:

    All it takes is a google search on how to access streaming media that’s blocked in the US. Within one or two clicks, you can find links to proxy servers overseas that will let you watch anything that’s blocked in the US because of these cable deals. I know that not everyone is tech-savvy, but c’mon people, google makes it pretty easy to learn.

  3. Woody says:

    Most U.S. cities have a single cable provider. There are two major satellite providers. Play ball with them or your network doesn’t get on. And though (as noted above) there are workaround techniques, they do require some internet savvy that are over the head of plenty of Americans.

    And so we have another example of the Joyous Unicorn of the Free Market rent-seeking corporate feudalism.

  4. Andre Kenji says:


    All it takes is a google search on how to access streaming media that’s blocked in the US.

    It´s not so simple. There are VPN´s, that are a paid service, but they create a lot of hassle(I know). Besides that, streaming is the future, cable is the past. Al Jazeera is ditching their future to embrace the past, it´s ridiculous.

  5. jd says:

    For you Linux users out there:

    aj=”rtmpdump -v -r rtmp:// | mplayer -“

  6. @Woody:

    And so we have another example of the Joyous Unicorn of the Free Market rent-seeking corporate feudalism.

    Yes, because clearly if the government passes franchise laws that makes competing cable companies illegal, the lack of competition is the free market’s fault.

  7. Tyrell says:

    Who are their major advertisers? Flying Carpet Airlines or United Magic Lantern Company?

  8. 11B40 says:


    I’m still serving my deportation to the San Francisco Bay area, residing several soviets south of what the locals refer to, for some archaic reason, as “The City”. Our local community college has its own over-the-air TV station, and, up until yesterday, broadcast “Al Jezeera” news’ English version.

    I found the programs to be worthwhile viewing. They covered a very broad spectrum of the world’s news. Certainly, like the old RCA dog, they heard their master’s voice, and certainly in regard to the removal of the “democratically elected” former President, and then some, of Egypt, but they did not appear to me to be any more ideologically committed than the other TV stations in this area.

    Bottom line for me was that once I factored in the “well, they are foreigners after all” quotient, which makes the ideological nonsense somewhat more bearable, I kind of stuck with them, foregoing my prior “Judge Judy” pleasures. My mind likes to see what the others are saying and, just as importantly, not saying. To hunt the tiger, you must learn the ways of the tiger.

  9. Tyrell says:

    In other words, no worse than the networks that try to pawn their propaganda as news.

  10. ed says:

    @Ben: teach me please

  11. Steve says:

    Used to access AJEnglish 3 ways: OTA (via MHz Networks), Streaming (via the web), and on cable (FIOS rebroadcast if the MHz feed). Now, the only option is AJAmerica (an inferior version of AJEnglish) via cable! What a shame. AJEnglish does NOT provide the same content as AJAmerica and thus should NOT be geo-blocked. There were/are also 2 satellites with with a CONUS footprint that carried the free feed. I don’t know if those have been blocked, too.

  12. Andre Kenji says:


    What a shame. AJEnglish does NOT provide the same content as AJAmerica and thus should NOT be geo-blocked.

    That´s the big point about cable news: offering the content on the web is the future. Taped content like documentaries are much easier and nicer to watch, and being able to watch news(As the British says, rolling news) when you are doing home work like washing dishes is extremely practical.

    On the other hand, the only channels that can offer their content on streaming are channels like BFM, France24, Sky News, RT, etc because these aren´t channels that offered on cable, and American cable companies block any small channel from offering content online to non-subscribers.

  13. William Wilgus says:

    Try a program called ‘TunnelBear’. It spoofs your computer as being in other countries. Right now I’m watching Al Jeezra English as though I’m in the UK. The program is free and you can use it for free or through a paid subscription. Obviously, the free method is limited in the length of time you can use it in one month. That amount re-sets every month.

    You can download TunnelBear at:

  14. fred says:

    From what I see so far it is a great addition to the information marketplace (we don’t have news media in our country anymore). It seems like it will resemble BBC channel in the UK and how CNN looked when first launched. If it stays on the news and not become an opinionated marketplace like all the others we now have, with Fox News and Talk Radio being un-American in its value system exhibited daily, it will be very successful. Welcome to the information marketplace!

  15. MDL says:

    Getting Al jazeera America is somewhat difficult but getting Al Jazeera English [which is different] is a real challenge now. I did find it through a Google search but the stream is weak and blurry and it doesn’t open full screen on a computer. Still searching for a better steam. This is a pretty lousy launch for a news company that wants to make it in America.

  16. Aaron Aarons says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Hard-wired services that, regardless of the signal-transmission technology they use, lay their cables on, over or under our public streets should be treated as common carriers, as the telcos have been for about a century, rather than forcing any alternative content provider to dig up thousands of miles of streets and spend many millions of dollars to provide their own cable, fiber optic, or other service.

    This is related, of course, to the concept of net neutrality, which the ISP’s are resisting.