Welcome to the Al Jazeera era

The plug was pulled on Al Gore’s Current TV this afternoon and the Al Jazeera America ‏ era is underway.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera paid $500 million to buy Current TV. “Some people ask, ‘Is it jihad journalism?’ It’s hard to have a dignified conversation about that,” Paul Beban, the Denver correspondent, tells the Denver Post.

“I wouldn’t give them a dime, especially since we are in New York,” an unnamed advertiser told the New York Post. “They’re owned by an Arab country and they ran the bin Laden tapes. I just wouldn’t trust them.”

That’s nonsense, according to Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik. “It makes American media a smarter and more diverse mix — and that makes this a better country,” he wrote.

Not many people will be able to get it. That’s one of the problems cited by The Atlantic‘s Nikki Usher. There’s also branding and the cost of starting a new channel.

AJAM’s promise boils down to more hard news: 14 hours of daily live news, news updates at the top of every hour, documentaries, investigative reports, eight to twelve-minute news pieces, and fewer commercials. But is this what Americans want? Some defenses of AJAM forget that PBS (and the BBC) already exists and is not thrillingly popular among American TV households. NPR has its own oligopoly on serious radio news. If this new channel is basically Al Jazeera English tailored for the PBS/NPR audience, we can expect a left wing approach on foreign affairs, where the U.S. Syrian rebels are activists and the Arab Spring is an unalloyed good.

And can it really be any worse than what the other 24-hour-cable-news channels have been giving us? Do people really want hard news?

The network is on Comcast channel 107, Dish Network channel 215, and DirectTV channel 358.