Berkeley residents will be among the first in the country to get access to an hour-long radio news show produced by the Al Jazeera network.
The Pacifica Foundation announced on Monday that it would run the radio broadcasts on three of its stations – KPFA in Berkeley, WBAI in New York and KPFT in Houston.
The show was broadcast today in Berkeley, will start on Tuesday in the other cities and will be expanded to the other Pacifica outlets, including Los Angeles and Washington D.C. in January. Eventually, all 150 of Pacifica’s affiliates will have access to the radio shows.
“Al Jazeera English’s news and programming is an exciting addition to our current line-up of thought-provoking programming,” Arlene Englehardt, Pacifica Foundation’s executive director announced in a press release. “It is part of our mission at Pacifica to act as a bridge between cultures and to present stories that are too often overlooked by other media in the United States.”
The program will air from 6 am to 7 am on weekdays, pushing “Democracy Now” with Amy Goodman to 7 am.
While Al Jazeera has an extensive radio and television production company, with 65 bureaus around the world and 1,000 staff members, it has not successfully penetrated the U.S. market. Since Al Jazeera regularly broadcasts videos and other missives from Al Qaeda, some regard it suspiciously. Until today, its radio shows were only available through satellite subscriptions.
Englehardt said Pacifica has been in talks with Al Jazzera for about a year, but the discussions intensified in February. She would not reveal the financial terms of the agreement but said Pacifica would not lose money on the transaction.
“We think it is a good news program that offers a slightly different perspective that the U.S. media,” said Englehardt. “They tend to cover international news but they also cover events in the United States.”
Englehardt said she was particularly impressed with Al Jazeera’s coverage of the disaster in the gulf caused by the explosion of a British Petroleum oil well.
Pacifica and staff members of KPFA have been embroiled in a contentious dispute over staffing and budgets in recent weeks. Disgruntled employees and volunteers have held numerous rallies outside Pacifica’s headquarters on Martin Luther King Way to protest changes Englehardt made to the station.
One of those was to pull the popular Morning Show and lay off its hosts. Englehardt said the show will return in a new hour-long format this week or next, before KPFA’s next fundraising drive. KPFA will announce the new host of the show soon, she said.