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Al Jazeera America prepares for Dallas launch

Heidi Zhou Castro
Heidi Zhou Castro is Al Jazeera America's Dallas correspondent. Photo by YNN Austin
Al Jazeera America
Al Jazeera America launches in 12 U.S. cities August 20.

As part of a 12-city launch, Al Jazeera America is setting up shop in Dallas on Tuesday, August 20. The Qatar-based company purchased Al Gore's fledgling cable network Current TV for around $500 million.

Al Jazeera will use Current TV's infrastructure to broadcast in 48 million American homes with Comcast, Verizon FiOS, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV and Dish Network. 

While Al Jazeera rose to prominence by covering Middle East issues, executives have shown a commitment to hiring experienced U.S. journalists for the network's latest offshoot. Former YNN Austin anchor Heidi Zhou Castro will be Al Jazeera America's Dallas correspondent. Meanwhile, former WFAA reporter Jonathan Betz has joined Al Jazeera in New York. 

On its website, Al Jazeera America says it offers "unbiased, fact-based, in-depth stories of U.S. and international news, including sports, business, lifestyle and investigative journalism."

After a nightly news show, Soledad O'Brien (formerly of CNN) will host a magazine-style show called America Tonight. O'Brien will be joined by another CNN veteran, Ali Velshi. Other programming includes a current affairs talk show hosted by Antonio Mora and a technology and science news show on Sunday nights.

In a recent conference call with reporters, interim CEO Ehab Al Shihabi characterized Al Jazeera America's coverage as less opinionated and celebrity-centric than current mainstream media outlets. He also said there would be fewer commercials and "less yelling."

"It is an American channel for the American audience," Shihabi told USA Today. In addition to New York and Dallas, the other U.S. bureaus are Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington D.C.

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Al Jazeera America is available in Dallas on the following channels: Directv (358); Dish Network (215); Verizon Fios (114); AT&T U-Verse (189) AT&T has abruptly dropped AJAM due to a contract dispute.

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