Briefing Notes: Al Jazeera

Chloe Choppen
Chloe Choppen28th November 2019

Key contacts

 

Al Jazeera English

Ben is Executive Producer of News for the whole of Europe, based in the London office of Al Jazeera in the Shard. Al Jazeera English is a 24 hours global news channel. The same content is broadcast to all audiences in all territories. Its main audiences are in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is the sister channel to Al Jazeera Arabic. The two channels share some content but the Arabic channel has more of a Middle East focus.

AJE is genuinely global with no regional bias. Its goal is to be different from the BBC and CNN and it has a clear focus on telling the stories of ordinary people, giving a voice to the voiceless and holding power to account.  For example in the upcoming coverage of COP25 they want to do some reporting on the human impact of the climate emergency. They like working with NGOs and are sympathetic to our issues and even willing to mark international days and run items based on reports we produce (unlike most other broadcasters). They are keen to tell stories from the global south.

The channel is broadcast from London in the evening with half hour bulletins at 6pm, 7pm, 9pm and 10pm. This is the pattern for the whole day -the second half of each hour is a documentary or magazine show. They are always looking for studio guests in London but also from other locations. They are particularly keen on first person testimony from the field and are happy to do this using Skype or a BGAN. They want a diverse range of experts and therefore are less keen to do CEOs in London (there are exceptions of course). Contact the interviews desk in London with suggestions for experts, especially if they can talk about a big running story. When they are covering a big event for example COP they will probably interview 5 or 6 different experts during a 24 hour news cycle so they will want to include a range of views. Experts need to speak reasonable English but it does not need to be their first language.

Half hour programmes that run in the second half of the hour include Listening Post (on media), People and Power, 101 East, Planet SOS, Talk to Al Jazeera.  Talk to Al Jazeera is a one on one interview show with world leaders but occasionally they will do NGO leaders. Planet SOS has replaced Earthrise and focuses on the climate crisis. They will also do one off investigations. These don’t have a regular slot but will be played when the investigation has been completed. Ben will also run clips from the investigation as part of the news output. Inside Story is a half hour daily discussion programme with 3 experts – good potential place for NGO experts.

 

Pitching

If you are pitching ideas, then pitch to the regional planning head and copy Ben in. If you’re not sure who to pitch to, then message Ben and he will pass it on. They do not have specialist correspondents so all planning decisions are taken by the regional planning editors.

Ben took us through the sort of news stories that get covered:

  • Planned events
  • Breaking news
  • Developing crises
  • Themed series
  • Investigations
  • News and features

When pitching give them 2-3 weeks’ notice. The key is pictures. They want to know what pictures they will get. They want a human story that feels new or different, especially new angles on familiar stories. They have lots of correspondents and stringers so they can film in most countries (where they are able to get a visa) and they have the budget to send a correspondent and a crew.  There are a few countries they can’t go to – Egypt, Tanzania, Yemen, Namibia. Most of the time they will want to send their own team rather than use your footage but there are several ways in which they could cover a story:

  • Send a correspondent and film crew
  • Use a fixer to shoot material and edit a package in London
  • Studio guest plus footage shot by stringer
  • Studio guest plus your material or agency video
  • Interviewee on location plus your material or agency video

They have regular planning meetings – daily, weekly, monthly. The TV channel is the priority although their online presence is growing and they do podcasts too.

They are particularly keen on stories that have east-west or north-south connections– for example they ran a story on fishing in Namibia where western companies were buying fishing rights.

 

Online

A major initiative from Al Jazeera has been the AJ+ shorts which have a big online audience. This team is based in Doha and Washington DC and the shorts are produced in English and French. They also run extra content on their website for example op eds. But the main website content comes from what is broadcast on TV. They have a daily news podcast and in depth one off podcasts. They are always looking for experts to take part in the podcasts.

 

MG, 28.11.19

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