Network President: Al Jazeera Name Not a Liability

Network President: Al Jazeera Name Not a Liability

Predicting that the new Al Jazeera America news network will experience a “rolling success,” the soon-to-launch network’s American chief, Kate O’Brien, insisted that the network is just what America is looking for. At the same time, interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi insisted that the network’s name was not a liability, despite that the name “al Jazeera” has a 75% negative polling result.

Ehab Al Shihabi, a senior executive at Al Jazeera and interim CEO of Al Jazeera America, told reporters on a recent conference call that he doesn’t think the network’s name is a drawback.

As reported by Deadline Hollywood, Al Shihabi said poll testing of the network’s name returned a 75% negative response from those who had never watched any of Al Jazeera’s reporting, but a 90% positive response from viewers that had.

The August 15 conference call was held to discuss the new network’s impending August 20 debut.

Kate O’Brien, a former ABC News executive who joined the American outlet of the Qatar-owned news agency in July, said, “The American viewer is looking for a particular set of things they just cannot find in the market place… unbiased news of quality and depth.”

O’Brien also said that the oil-rich country of Qatar is “supporting us in a way where we really can go uncover these stories” that aren’t being covered by the American media establishment. “It’s an amazing opportunity with an amazingly strong foundation–and we’re still a start up, still talking about things… still assembling more pieces of the puzzle,” she said.

O’Brien also said that once Americans see the “quality journalism” that Al Jazeera America produces, the negative connotation of the name will become less of a factor.

Al Jazeera has been hiring dozens of American journalists and has opened 12 regional bureaus across the country.

One of Al Jazeera America’s most recent hires was former MSNBC anchor David Shuster. Shuster joined a growing list of American news personnel headed to Al Jazeera America. The list includes former NBC anchor John Seigenthaler, who joined the foreign-owned network early in August.

Preceding Shuster and Seigenthaler were former CNN hosts Soledad O’Brien and Al Velshi, as well as former NBC reporter Michael Viqueira.

In July, Al Jazeera America’s parent network, Al Jazeera, suffered the resignation of a large number of staffers over its bias in favor of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.