The Easiest Way to Get Al Jazeera English

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Kansas City Star

The Easiest Way to Get Al Jazeera English

Aaron Barnhart

Ever since it launched in 2006, Al Jazeera English has been the best cable channel I can't get on cable.

24 hours a day from 65 bureaus around the world, AJE puts every
American-owned TV news organization to shame. Its live coverage of the
fighting in Gaza in 2009 drove many people to watch it on the Web, but it was still viewed as a novelty by many Americans until the events in Egypt.

RELATED: Al Jazeera English: One channel could make a world of difference

reporting on the unrest in Egypt was the envy of broadcasters the world
over, which relied heavily on video feeds from the Doha-based channel.
And, needless to say, it was a thorn in the side of the henchmen who
run Egypt and who couldn't yank Al-Jazeera Arabic off Egyptian TV fast
enough. NBC jetted Brian Williams in to anchor the "Nightly News" from
Cairo, but that couldn't make up for years of investment in reporting on
Egypt (as Williams would be the first to tell you).

Since Jan. 27
AJE has beefed up its video streaming capacity to handle the huge
spikes in traffic, a spokesperson told me earlier today. More than 7
million U.S. viewers have spent nearly 50 million minutes watching the
AJE website since Jan. 27.

Very few people, though, find watching
live news coverage on the Web or their mobile more satisfying than
watching it on plain old television.

Brian Stelter thought to ask
the top 10 cable and satellite services if they were planning to add
AJE, and they gave him pretty much the same answer they'd have given him
if he'd asked them about carrying BBC World or CBC Newsworld or the
Documentary Channel: "Do we own that channel? No? Then forget it."

Or words to that effect.

But Brian didn't quite have it right when he wrote, "New ways to watch Al Jazeera English in the United States keep popping up - but not on cable or satellite systems."

An easier way to watch

In fact, for over a year there's been a relatively easy way to get the essential AJE on TV every weeknight.

It's called LINK TV (website) and it's free for every one of DirecTV and Dish Network's 33 million subscribers.

TV, based in San Francisco, has been offering news and cultural
programming from around the world for a decade. It's one of those
channels that even other people who write about TV scarcely know about.
In fact, if you care about news from any part of the world the American
news media isn't interested in (unless someone's overthrown or a
disaster happens), you should get LINK TV.

Currently LINK TV is
devoted about half its day to live broadcast of Al Jazeera English,
based on news events in Egypt. But even after the excitement in the
Middle East dies down, it will resume carrying an hour or more of
newscasts and other programming from AJE by special agreement.

first wrote about LINK TV eight years ago in a column that had the
headline, "Our Al-Jazeera," because in those pre-AJE years, LINK TV was
the only place to get news from the Arab world. That was because LINK TV
aired a nightly program called "Mosaic," a half-hour digest of
translated newscasts from all the hotspots in the Arab world.

VIDEO: Watch "Mosaic" and search its nine-year archive

is still going strong after nine years and 2,000 broadcasts. About a
year and a half ago, LINK TV started pairing it with the live 9 p.m.
(CT) broadcast of Al Jazeera English's news roundup. You won't need to
surf the internet after watching these two newscasts.

Kim Spencer,
LINK TV's founder and president, told me today that the "Mosaic" staff
is keeping its eye on other Arab newscasts in case they need to be added
to the mix.

"I just got an (internal) email titled 'Yemen?'" said
Spencer. "In the same way Al-Jazeera was able to be there for Tunisia
and Egypt, we're sitting over in our Mosaic room very carefully watching
Jordanian TV and all the middle east channels. How are they getting
ready for when this spills over into their countries?"

exists because Congress required satelllite companies to set aside 4
percent of their spectrum for educational and nonprofit channels, and
LINK jumped right in.

Now it's kept going by foundation grants
and individual viewer donations. The Gates Foundation sponsored a nifty
new portal for global information called ViewChange
that features a semantically driven video player. When fully
operational, the player will suggest new videos based on language it
scans in the video you're watching.

But the main content delivery
system remains TV. And LINK TV keeps beefing up its schedule with
content you won't see anywhere else including documentaries, a new TED
Talk every week and, coming soon, the "Mosaic" of Asian news.


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