Al Jazeera English launches in Canada

Al Jazeera English, a 24-hour news service based in the Middle East that covers international news, is now being broadcast in Canada.

AJE launched in 2006 and is dedicated to covering parts of the world that other news services have abandoned, including Africa, Central Asia and the Americas.

Speaking at the University of Regina School of Journalism’s 30th Annual Minifie Lecture, AJE managing editor Tony Burman said North America’s foreign news corps fell victim to budget cuts during a crucial period of world history, leaving citizens in the dark about a changing world.
Al Jazeera English
“I suspect historians will one day judge this as a defining period of the 21st Century. The centres of global power are shifting,” said Burman. Meanwhile, international coverage is “at risk,” the victim of profit-seeking corporations and short-sighted management.

Burman noted that in the U. S., the trend of laying off journalists and closing bureaus has led to the lowest level of international news coverage in 20 years, according to a 2008 PEW study.

“The trend here in Canada is likely the same. This, sadly, comes at a time when people have never been more in need of fearless, independent, public-service journalism – particularly coverage of the world,” he said.

Meanwhile, the developing world has moved aggressively to expand, not reduce, international coverage, Burman said. This includes the rise of Al Jazeera, with 70 bureaus around the globe, and a new one slated for Canada.

When AJE arrives in May, viewers will see television that looks and feels different, with more context, more global voices, and a slower-paced, less flashy delivery, Burman said.  He added he hopes a positive audience response to indepth, diverse global news will rub off on other media outlets.

In an increasingly multicultural, interdependent world, Canadians have an appetite for international stories, Burman argued.

The CBC reports:

“Bell TV, Rogers and Vidéotron, three of Canada’s largest cable providers, are carrying the digital channel, which got approval from the federal regulator last November.

“It has taken four years from the creation of the network for it to clear all the hurdles to begin broadcasting in Canada.

“AJE has more than 1,000 employees worldwide, including many Canadians. Tony Burman, former editor in chief of CBC News, is the current managing director of Al Jazeera English. He said the network aims to bring independent, impartial news to a global audience.

“I believe that our cutting-edge reporting and programming will fill an important void by bringing another voice in international news to this important market,” Burman said in a statement announcing the launch of the service.

“AJE plans to open a Toronto bureau in June to begin its coverage of Canadian news.

“Canadian-born journalist Imtiaz Tyab, who has worked for BBC in London and CBC News in Vancouver, and Jet Belgraver, a Canadian documentary and news producer, will be based in Toronto.”

Among the issues AJE plans to cover are:

– A look at what Canada’s departure from Afghanistan in 2011 will mean for NATO.
– In-depth features on Canada’s oilsands, including reports from Alberta on life at Fort McMurray.
– An examination of Canada’s controversial climate change policy.
– A report from Winnipeg on the hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for residential school survivors.