Al Jazeera went live at 12 noon GMT, broadcasting live from Doha, Qatar – and there’s no denying it looks beautiful. It takes the best bits of the Sky News studio set, the best elements of the BBC’s graphics, and adds an extra layer of class on top. You can really see the benefit of the HD signals coming through. Subtle on-screen graphics – with neither ticker nor clock. No advert breaks, and no ‘headlines every five minutes’. A few wobbly camera shots in the first few moments, but nothing unforgivable, certainly not at this stage.
The top story, a little disappointingly, was itself – a revolution in TV news, or something. From there, almost inevitably, we go to the latest deaths in Israel / Palestine… and the channel starts to show its distinguishing features. Lots of live two-way interviews, including correspondents in Gaza, Jerusalem, a Darfur refugee camp, Tehran (a welcome return for Rageh Omaar), and most interesting of all – Harare, Zimbabwe, apparently the first live TV signal from a foreign broadcaster in seven years.
Interesting to watch so far – but it all feels a bit worthy. There weren’t really any obvious ‘news’ lines to a lot of the reports. I’m sure conditions in Sudan are terrible, but nothing has obviously happened today to make them any worse than yesterday. Same goes for Zimbabwe. Maybe this is just the channel making an early mark, but it’s going to have to develop a harder news edge… and I wonder if that’s possible when you take such a consciously global remit.
It’s all happening on Sky Digital channel 514. Look out for an exclusive interview with Tony Blair later in the day (apparently).