Al-Jazeera Courted Koppel


Pasadena, Calif. -- American broadcast and cable networks weren't the only organizations talking to Ted Koppel before he chose Discovery Channel as his new reporting home. The ABC News veteran confirmed to critics at the Television Critics Association press tour here Friday that he also took a meeting with the English-language version of Al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern news channel.

"I make it a habit of listening to what people say before I say no," he said, adding that he entertained the thought of working for the channel "for about 38 seconds."

He said Al-Jazeera is a "huge step up" from where journalism was in the Arab world years ago, but he never seriously thought of working there.

Koppel criticized broadcasters for their lack of long-form reporting and tendency to "dumb down" content for viewers. As for his directives from Discovery, he said he's been told the "sky's the limit," as long as it remains fact-based.

Since his first project is due in June, the debut product may deal with the cultural changes since Sept. 11, 2001, when the discussion in the aftermath dealt with lack of knowledge about terrorists and how to strengthen security, yet it has now mutated to questioning wiretapping and possible investigative abuses in the name of the fight on terrorism.

But Koppel stressed that news could change between now and September, so other debut reporting topics are possible.