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Switched on

USA [BROADCASTING]

When Al Jazeera English debuted in 2006, local US cable and satellite TV companies declined to carry the network, frightened by the reputation of its parent network, the Arabic-language Al Jazeera, as the mouthpiece for terrorists. But that is changing. In April, cable networks in the Washington DC area started carrying AJE, and by the end of the year it will expand into an additional 20 US markets.

AJE is funded by the Emir of Qatar, just like its Arabic-language parent, but has a more worldwide focus and sees itself as “the voice of the global South,” says William Stebbins, AJE’s Washington DC bureau chief. That has resonance in Obama’s America. “There’s no underestimating the effect the US election had on the atmosphere in the US,” Stebbins says. “The new administration came into office with the stated goal of ‘resetting’ relations with the rest of the world. So from the very top there was a clear desire to be engaged with the rest of the world. And that’s what we represent, an opportunity to listen to the rest of the world.”

There have been no major protests against AJE in the US, though that could change. “We still live with the legacy of the post-9/11 era when there was a concerted effort to delegitimise Al Jazeera,” Stebbins says. “But the only way to dispel that misunderstanding is to get people to watch the channel.”

In September, Al Jazeera English programming will be seen in the following US markets:
Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Miami, Orlando, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Las Vegas and Richmond, Virginia.

Media spotlight

The Washington Post’s president-pleasing redesign

By Mario García, García Media

Whispers are sometimes more interesting than the louder sounds around, so I, for one, pay attention to whispers on the right lips. The big project to watch this autumn is The Washington Post unveiling its revamped daily and online content. The Post’s editors face a special challenge: doing more for their local audience while preserving their strong national-international website. This is the newspaper that President Obama gets his hands on daily (yes, he says he reads the printed edition!), so Roger Black’s redesign better be up to presidential standards.

Botton pushing

London [PUBLISHING]

Alain de Botton has spent the best part of his summer sitting in Heathrow T5’s departures. Commissioned by owner BAA as the airport’s first official writer-in-residence, de Botton has completed his latest book, A Week At The Airport, offering an offbeat reflection on airport life from the viewpoint of both its staff and passengers. There’s even a walk-on part for Willie Walsh, CEO of BA. Published by Profile books, 10,000 copies of the book will be given away for free to passengers travelling through Heathrow on publication day in mid-September. Less The Art of Travel, then, than the art of staying still.

Unrolling rolling news

Global [BROADCASTING]

Eager to take on Europe’s nightly prime-time terrestrial bulletins, CNN International is corralling its resources to launch a new stand-out half-hour news programme providing a definitive picture of the news day. Aimed at the “global enquirer”, the programme (which at the time of going to press was yet to be named) – is designed to be a “compact and comprehensive bulletin of record,” according to anchor Fionnuala Sweeney. A genuinely global take on the day might be just what’s needed to shake-up limp schedules. On air at 21.30 CET on CNN International from late September.

Jog and snog

USA

Nike+, the sneaker pimps’ online running tracker, has not only been credited with spiking the brand’s trainer dominance – 61 per cent in the US – but also as a hook-up joint for sweaty jogging dates. Aping Twitter, the new site is all about “community tools”. Fine, just be sure to take on fluids.

×Culture with Robert Bound

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