I have expressed fears before that the only way Al-Jazeera America will get itself on US cable is once it has neutered itself to the point that it is little different from CNN. Now an email has been leaked from one of Al-Jazeeera’s senior presenters, Marwan Bishara, who castigates AJAM executives for caving into pressure to conform to “normal” US standards of craven journalism.
The most incriminating bits of evidence that Bishara is right, I think, are the decisions AJAM is said to have taken both to avoid using any content from Al-Jazeera English, instead sourcing all programming content from the US arm, and to make AJE content unavailable to most US viewers, even on web livestream.
Given that AJE already produces programmes that clearly appeal to US audiences, and could easily be incorporated into AJAM programming, that makes no editorial or commercial sense – unless AJAM wants to remake itself as a patriotic US brand.
Bishara is not alone in his concerns. Tony Burman, a former head of AJE, recently wrote that AJAM “has the odour of potential disaster”. He noted that “the rumoured shortlist of potential ‘presidents’ includes several of the people who have driven US cable networks, including CNN, to a level of utter mediocrity.”