Al Jazeera English, after a long struggle to break into the American TV market, has finally found a home in a major metropolitan area.
Washington, D.C.-area folks can catch AJE's "Hour of News" at 10 p.m. on Thursday, the last show of the night to air from their Washington bureau. It can be found on Comcast channel 271, Cox channel 470 or Verizon FiOS channel 451. It'll be broadcast by the MHz Network.
Al Jazeera popped a nice scoop two weeks ago when "Fault Lines" host Avi Lewis got former Bush administration deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage to say he should have resigned over White House torture policy.
Beginning July 1, AJE will be on 24 hours a day in the D.C. area, with the goal of eventually broadcasting nationally. (It's already available in Toledo, Ohio, broadcast by Buckeye Cable.)
AJE insiders, however, worry that their coverage of Washington politics will be undercut by their inability so far to get administration officials to respond to interview requests.
I've never joined staffers in that reluctance. For about the last year, I've been an occasional commentator on AJE and, while waiting to go on, always found the programming to be lively, entertaining and worthwhile for its different perspective. I never found it to be anti-American -- more anti-imperialist or old-school leftist.
Its perspective can allow a viewer to see a popular story in a different way. I was in their studio when they broadcast footage of John McCain famously responding to a woman who told him she was scared because Obama was an Arab. "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with," said McCain, who was praised for the remark by the American press. The folks at AJE, of course, looked at the comment differently. What, you can't be an Arab and also a decent family man?
Al Jazeera's coverage of world events from the ground-level perspective also gives it a dimension often lacking in American broadcasts. During the Israeli invasion of Gaza, for example, the network's American online viewership skyrocketed, as it was one of the few media outlets with correspondents actually on the scene during the fighting.
Ryan Grim is the author of the forthcoming book This Is Your Country On Drugs: The Secret History of Getting High in America