Al Jazeera English Launches Today, Faces Hurdles

Al Jazeera English launches today, but the fledgling cable network is having trouble finding U.S. cable providers who are willing to carry it. According to the New York Sun:

The long-delayed sister channel to Al-Jazeera is set to make its debut this morning, but the new network's ability to build an audience in America is in doubt because major cable and satellite providers here have declined to carry the new television offering.

The new network — which, in a last-minute move, has apparently changed its name from Al-Jazeera International to Al-Jazeera English — announced its distribution outlets yesterday and proclaimed that it will have access to between 70 million and 80 million homes worldwide. However, in America, no cable operators have reported plans to carry the Qatar-based channel, and the two largest satellite providers have also opted out. Al-Jazeera English will be available through the Internet and a satellite company specializing in international television feeds.

A former ABC News correspondent who will be one of the main Washington anchors for the new network, David Marash, expressed some regret yesterday about the limited platform in America. "It's disappointing. Of course, you want to play to your home crowd if you can," he said.

Mr. Marash told The New York Sun that the distribution problems may give the network a slow start here but should become less important over time. "The cable-satellite deficit is a very temporary problem. I think in 10 years broadband through the Internet will be the distribution route of choice," he said.