Al Jazeera America has divided the critics since it hit the airwaves on Tuesday – with one saying the channel marks “a fresh perspective”, while another claiming it propagates “biased news”.

The Qatari broadcaster launched the news station after spending $500 million to broaden its distribution in the U.S., and amid heightened concern over its existing channels’ coverage of Egypt.

Unrest in Egypt featured prominently in the first few hours of Al Jazeera America’s coverage, along with domestic matters such as a school shooting in Atlanta and U.S. climate change.

The launch drew skepticism from the prominent City University of New York journalism professor Jeff Jarvis.

“They hired people straight out of traditional TV news; they tried hard not to hire foreigners. But what I was hoping for was a new form with new perspectives,” Jarvis said on Google+, according to AFP.

Other commentators said they expected Al Jazeera America to be tinged by the same alleged bias as its sister stations are sometimes said to have. ...

Positive first impressions

Other academics in the field of journalism said they had positive first impressions of Al Jazeera America (AJAM).

“The reporting appears to be unbiased and objective,” said Matt Duffy, who teaches media law at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

“Overall, the addition of AJAM to channel outlets can only be a good thing for an American audience that lacks exposure to diversity in news reports, particularly in international news,” he added.

However, Prof Duffy questioned how much commercial pressure the new station will face, as it competes for advertising with established players like CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.

“One wonders whether the channel will ever generate much of an audience but that’s the benefit of being owned by Qatar – there’s no real need to ever generate a profit,” he said.