Washington – Al Jazeera America has scheduled its launch. The channel that bought out Current TV will flip the switch the week of Aug. 24, Ehab Al Shihabi, executive director of international operations for Al Jazeera, told B&C at The Cable Show on Monday, though an exact day has yet to be determined.
At launch, Al Jazeera America’s primetime lineup will include the previously announced Ali Velshi show, which will be titled Real Money and air at 7 p.m., a nightly 60 Minutes-style newsmagazine at 9 p.m., and America Tonight, which will present a deep-dive analysis on key issues of the day.
The network will also have a morning show, though don’t expect a Today-style format with a group of anchors chatting on a couch. “We haven’t finalized the details of format, but it’s not going to look like [hosts] sitting and talking about kitchens,” says Al Shihabi, who adds like the rest of its schedule, the mornings will focus on in-depth, fact-based news.
In addition to the news programs, so far there is set to be 11 hours of rolling news a day, with sports and entertainment news programs in development. Many of the details of launch programs remain vague because the network is still actively recruiting talent, and while Al Shihabi said recruiting big names like Velshi is important, it is most concerned about hiring great journalists.
“Personality is critical, but the most important thing with personality is their in-depth outstanding of journalism,” he said. “We’re not having a big name without a journalistic identity. That’s the difference between lip service and talent.”
Al Jazeera America has still yet to hire one key personality – a network president. On Monday TV Newser reported that Al Jazeera interviewed finalists for the job in New York last week, and Al Shihabi confirmed that he is “very close” to naming someone, and “definitely” by the August launch.
He said it “doesn’t matter” whether the job goes to someone who has been a network chief before, as rumored names like Jon Klein (CNN) and David Westin (ABC News) have been. “What matters for us is a demonstration of journalistic identity that match Al Jazeera America’s core values. It’s very critical to have a leadership identity built in to unite the team, not to shift focus.”
Al Shihabi was in Washington, D.C. to promote the network launch to industry executives at The Cable Show, which he said was “the opportunity for Al Jazeera America to prove it has become part of the landscape of the American news channels.”
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