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Posts Tagged ‘Kate O’Brian’

Despite Poor Ratings, Al Jazeera America President Expects Viewers Will Come

Al-Jazeera-America304As Al Jazeera America approaches its one-year anniversary, network President Kate O’Brian predicts more viewers will start tuning in to the struggling network.

“There will be an inflection point when people realize what Al Jazeera does,” she said yesterday at a press tour for the TV Critics Association. “They won’t want the right-leaning, the left-leaning or the infotainment. They’ll come.”

The Hollywood Reporter reports that O’Brian acknowledged some viewers haven’t tuned in because of the network’s Arabic name and Middle East background, but she still believes success is on the horizon. “It’s a well-respected brand throughout the world. We will get there in America. It will come in time.”

But today, Reuters columnist Jack Schafer explains why viewers are shrugging toward AJAM instead of watching.

Why the antipathy? In some ways, Al Jazeera America has out-CNN’ed the old CNN with its plodding, responsible, in-depth and conventional approach to news. “There’s no real estate for partisan bickering” at Al Jazeera America, wrote USA Today‘s Rem Rieder earlier this year. “Its diet of top national and international stories is a throwback to the story lineup on the network newscasts of decades ago.” The channel’s anchors serve no candy, and no whiskey, either. Al Jazeera America isn’t just the anti-Vice, it’s the anti-Fox, and its sobriety makes PBS’s NewsHour seem like a TV riot in comparison. Is sobriety really the direction Al Jazeera America wants to go? As David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun has written, NewsHour lost 48 percent of its audience between 2005 and 2013, indicating that Al Jazeera America is pursuing a class of viewers that’s headed for extinction.

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Al Jazeera’s Tony Harris on ‘Unconscionable’ Imprisonment of Colleagues Who Guided Him

Press Freedom

Al Jazeera executives and anchors, global diplomats, and several members of the media gathered this afternoon at the United Nations for a town hall on press freedom. There were also three chairs left empty (pictured above), symbolically held for Al Jazeera journalists Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed, and Mohamed Fahmy who were found guilty Monday in a courtroom outside Cairo.

“These people were amazing in terms of their knowledge, and their willingness to share what they knew about the region with an American who was coming to the Middle East to learn and report on what was happening,” Al Jazeera America anchor Tony Harris told TVNewser at the event. Harris, a former CNN anchor, met the journalists several years ago when he began anchoring for Al Jazeera English.

“The idea that these guys would be imprisoned right now, essentially fighting for their reputations, fighting for their lives, is just unconscionable to me.”

Egyptian U.N. diplomat Osama Abdelkhalek Mahmoud spoke at the event, but declined to comment on the case, citing Egypt’s constitution. (Egypt’s new president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has also said he will not interfere in the ruling.) Read more

Subrata De Leaves MSNBC for ABC News

SubrataDeABCSubrata De is joining ABC News as VP of newsgathering, TVNewser has learned.  De takes over for Kate O’Brian who left ABC last year after being named president of Al Jazeera America.

De joins from MSNBC where she had been the EP of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” since January 2012. “It has been an extraordinary privilege to work with her,” Mitchell said on De’s final show May 23. Before joining MSNBC, De was Brian Williams‘ producer, traveling with him across the country and around the world.

De started at NBC News in 1998.

More: A note from ABC News president James Goldston, which includes expanded roles for two other ABCNewsers, after the jump…

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Al Jazeera America President: ‘We Don’t Do Pundits, We Don’t Do Yak-Yak-Yak’

al jazeera americaAl Jazeera America CEO Ehab Al Shihabi and president Kate O’Brian talked about the state of the network at a Paley Center breakfast panel Tuesday. Broadcasting & Cable has details:

[...] At 55 million U.S. homes, the network lacks scale comparable to all-news peers like CNN and Fox News, though O’Brian said she doesn’t consider the all-news nets true competitors. “We don’t do pundits, we don’t do yak-yak-yak,” she said. Mitchell noted the network had minimal coverage of the lost Malaysian jet, a story CNN feasted on for weeks, to the dismay of critics but to viewers’ apparent satisfaction.

One potential hurdle to Al Jazeera America’s growth is its name, which for some too closely links it to the media conglomerate controlled by the government of Qatar. Al Shihabi asserted the company is “very proud of the name. It has a brand value.” Masking the affiliation with parent Al Jazeera Media with another name could confuse viewers and the marketplace. And given “the strong firewall between the funding and editorial,” he said there was no point trying to start a new brand from scratch.

TVNewsers on Gotham, Variety Power Lists

Gotham and Variety were both out this week with power lists featuring female television personalities and executives.

In Variety‘s “Power of Women” issue, the “New York Impact” list featured Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo, NBC Universal News Group chairman Pat Fili-Krushel, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian, ABC’s Robin Roberts and CAA television agent Olivia Metzger.

Bartiromo and Roberts are also on Gotham’s “50 Most Powerful Women in New York” list, along with NBC’s Deborah Turness and Savannah Guthrie, CBS’ Gayle King and Norah O’Donnell and ABC’s Diane Sawyer.

Layoffs at Al Jazeera America

Al-Jazeera-America304As it nears eight months on-air, Al Jazeera America is laying off a few dozen staff employees, as well as freelance employees, with the majority of cuts coming from the sports and business units, TVNewser has learned.

In an email to staff we obtained, network President Kate O’Brian said the network has reached a “steady-state level of operations, and we are bringing our staffing levels into alignment with our long-range plan as per our original business case.”

“As a result, certain parts of our organization will expand or contract and staff levels and resources will be recalibrated.”

The network has struggled in the ratings to date, and O’Brian told us last year that “our ratings will come as people are watching.”

O’Brian’s full email to staff after the jump.

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Al Jazeera America President’s #FreeAJStaff Plea

As we’ve been reporting, the calls to free the three imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists are getting louder, and with news this morning that their detainment could last as long as two years,  Al Jazeera America president Kate O’Brian took to Twitter to show her  support.

In an end of 2013 message to staff, O’Brian highlighted keeping the journalists in mind.

And, as we reflect at year’s end, let us all keep our colleagues Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Mohamed Fawzy in our thoughts. Their incarceration highlights the importance, and the inherent dangers, of the fearless journalism we espouse.

Kate O’Brian’s Year-End Message to Al Jazeera America

Al-Jazeera-America304It might have been on for only four months, but Al Jazeera America certainly had a busy 2013.  Network president Kate O’Brian, who told TVNewser her aim is to make AJAM the number one news division in America, wrote a year-end note thanking her employees for their hard work while also requesting them to keep their detained colleagues in their thoughts.

“To all of you who have worked on the channel for much longer than those four months, and for all who started closer to or even since August 20th, thank you. Your hard work and dedication to excellence has created a foundation for success that will be the envy of the industry. As I watch the year-end wrap up stories I realize that in our short four months we have covered every important breaking story, from our first weeks focusing on the humanitarian crisis in Syria all the way to our expansive, respectful coverage of the death of Mandela.”

The full note is after the jump. Read more

News Pro Names ’12 to Watch in TV News’

12 to watch in TV NewsTV Week’s News Pro magazine is out with its forward-looking “12 to Watch in TV News” list. Unsurprisingly, HLN president Albie Hecht is on the list, as he’s expected to make major changes to the network early on in the new year.

Other network executives featured are NBC News President Deborah Turness—who is rumored to be eyeing major shakeups, including cutting on-air talent and possibly even making changes to “Meet the Press”—and Al Jazeera America President Kate O’Brian, who told TVNewser AJAM aims to become the top news division in America. Whether she can lift the new network from its ratings woes in an interesting storyline to watch in 2014.

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly made the list after she was moved to the 9pmET primetime slot earlier this year. Kelly has generated both strong ratings and holiday controversy on FNC. Read more

Al Jazeera America At Three Months: Pundit Free, ‘Experts When Needed’

AjamNewsroomAl Jazeera America turns the ripe old age of three months next week. So yesterday, TVNewser visited the channel’s midtown Manhattan studio and got a status update from network president Kate O’Brian.

Despite low rating to start—fewer than 25,000 total viewers at any given time, according to the New York Times— O’Brian sees preliminary success.

“We are executing on the mission that we set out when we put this thing together,” she said. “And that is to give a voice to the voiceless parts of the country and stories, report the under-reported stories that our competition is not doing, and to really go deep into some of the more interesting and unknown parts of this country, and frankly of the world. And we’re doing that literally every day.”

And regarding those competitors, Al Jazeera America is a pundit-free zone.

“We’re not putting pundits on, we’re putting experts when needed,” she said. “We don’t want to hear people just discussing, at whatever decibel level, their opinions on what’s is going on, we want to hear experts [when we have someone other than our reporter reporting a story] going deeply into the reasons something is the way it is.”

The network is also realistic about its challenges, which include being thinly distributed to cable subscribers and overcoming pre-conceived notions about the Al Jazeera brand in the U.S.

Read more

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