Al Jazeera English Set for Debut; Are Viewers?

The Al Jazeera English news channel will begin airing Wednesday. America's cable providers have for the most part shunned the Qatar-based network's first English-language offering. But some people may be able to pick it up. Questions about the service center on how it differ from the well known Arabic-language service.

Al Jazeera is famous in the Middle East for airing dissent about the Arab world — and famous in the United States for broadcasting the videotaped pronouncements of Osama bin Laden.

But anchor Dave Marash, formerly of ABC News' Nightline, says the new channel will develop its own approach — independently of Al Jazeera in Arabic. "For me," Marash says, "it's an opportunity, I think, to join the most exciting experiment in television news — certainly in English — in the world today."

Other new hires include journalists from CNN and the BBC, including famous interviewer David Frost. Al Jazeera International will have bureaus ringing the world and four major studios based in Washington, London, Qatar and Malaysia.

In the United States, it will be tough to find the channel. So far, no American cable providers have agreed to carry it. The nation's largest cable company, Comcast, says such decisions are made on purely financial grounds — not political ones.

Only subscribers to the DishTV satellite system will be able to get the English-language Al Jazeera — for an extra fee.

The new Al Jazeera channel, like the original, is heavily subsidized by the emir of Qatar. But the best way for curious Americans to watch Al Jazeera in English will be on the Web — those with broadband Internet service can see it for free.

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