A media watchdog doesn’t expect an agreement with a major cable company will help Al Jazeera America significantly increase its audience in the United States.
Time Warner Cable and Al Jazeera America have announced they've reached a deal for the cable company to start carrying the controversial Qatar-based network that has been a mouthpiece for Islamic terrorist propaganda. Over the next six months, the channel will be added to digital basic cable packages in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas – making Al Jazeera America available to a total of almost 55 million homes.
Since going live in August, the network has struggled in the ratings. Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, says it’s obvious that foreign-owned news outlets like Al Jazeera don't do well in front of American audiences.
"The fact of the matter is that a number of their programs are actually measuring a zero in the Nielsen's,” he points out. “Even if you add Time Warner, they're just not attracting viewers. Nobody is watching this channel."
And why is that? "I think that there’s a whole trend of [English-language, foreign-owned] stations on our cable – from RT [‘Russia Today’] now there's CCTV in China – I think there's a real feeling that these are propaganda networks,” he responds.
So the media analyst says it should come as no surprise that Al Jazeera America is targeting a certain U.S. audience.
"The natural audience is the Left,” he says. “If you look at where Al Jazeera America has advertised for viewers, it's in [magazines like] The New Yorker, it's in The Nation, it's in Mother Jones. That's where they're advertising. They're basically saying [they’ll] go to the important people on the left – that's who they're going for."
According to Graham, Al Jazeera America is less concerned about making money than it is having the prestige of penetrating the U.S. market with cable outlets like Time Warner and high-paid executives from big U.S. networks.
Toward that end, in July Al Jazeera America announced the hiring of Kate O’Brian, a 30-year veteran with ABC, as president to oversee the networks coverage of major news events. Earlier that month, former CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien joined the Al Jazeera America team.
Time Warner Cable dropped the channel in January just hours after Al Jazeera announced it was purchasing Al Gore’s Current TV.