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Today's Top News
The Easiest Way to Get Al Jazeera English
Broadcasting 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.
AJE's 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.
LINK 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.
I 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.
"Mosaic" 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?"
LINK TV 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.