Posted on March 28, 2007
Why Al Jazeera English is blocked in the U.S.
Finally, I’m happy that I watched an episode of Frontline’s “News War” series on TV. The first three were very disappointing — stuffy, predictable, old-fashioned and dull.
In the fourth installment, “Stories from a Small Planet,” the series focuses on something that is not old and stale. It is the biggest uncovered story in the U.S. — the rest of the world.
The first half focuses on Al Jazeera and some other Arab or Near East-based television networks, including Alhurra TV, the U.S. government-funded network (where our tax dollars are hard at work, spreading propaganda abroad). While not quite as informative as the documentary Control Room (2003), “Stories from a Small Planet” provides a decently paced overview of broadcast journalism outside the Western countries. The second half skips around and ignores Latin America and Africa, but briefly looks at the Philippines and China.
Now, as to why the whole of the United States is prevented from receiving the global news channel Al Jazeera English — via cable or satellite network. Look no further than Accuracy in Media. Yes, the ultra-conservative media watchdog organization. There they are, proudly showing off letters from their campaign to inform every U.S. cable and satellite provider about just how harmful and dangerous Al Jazeera English would be if it were broadcast in the U.S.
Since when are Americans opposed to an open marketplace of ideas?
I’ve said it before — I would pay a premium to get Al Jazeera English on my cable TV lineup. I would like to hear other points of view. Not because I am anti-American, but because I don’t think we can know what’s true if opposing views are censored.
There’s a ton of supplemental material online for “Stories from a Small Planet” at the Frontline/World site:
- A 15-minute video about South Korea’s OhmyNews
- A profile of The Guardian (possibly the best English-language newspaper in the world)
- Statistics about journalists who have been killed on the job
- Excerpts from interviews with six Turkish journalists (all male, strangely enough; I know there are female journalists in Turkey)
- A good summary article about the government grip on news media in Arab countries and how satellite technology is changing that
- An interview with Wadah Khanfar, director general of Al Jazeera
Update: Here is what Accuracy in Media published about Al Jazeera English in November 2006:
The American people do not want Al-Jazeera International in their homes or businesses. In fact, a recent poll revealed that 53 percent of people oppose Al-Jazeera International, while only 29 percent support the channel. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has not responded quickly enough to the rise of Al-Jazeera International, and it was recently reported that the network will launch on November 15, though at this point there are no U.S. cable companies that have announced plans to carry it. When asked to comment on the new Al-Jazeera, Wadah Khanfar, Director General of the Al-Jazeera Network, stated ominously, “The new channel will provide the same ground-breaking news and impartial and balanced journalism to the English speaking world.” Indeed, Khanfar sardonically supports Kincaid’s assertions that Al-Jazeera International and the Arabic Al-Jazeera are entirely similar. Kincaid warns that this issue is of the utmost importance, and if Al-Jazeera makes waves on American cable, then the possibility of suicide bombers in America could lurk close behind.
It is interesting that they refer to a supposed poll and never name the poll or provide any information about who sponsored the poll, when or where the poll was conducted, or what questions were asked in the poll.
If 29 percent of Americans polled supposedly “support” the channel, why is not being carried on any U.S. satellite or cable service?
And how is it possible that a supposed 53 percent of Americans “oppose” Al Jazeera — when they have never even seen it? How can you oppose something that you have no experience with — an information source you have never seen? Do they oppose it because the poll-takers described it to them as the network that will create “the possibility of suicide bombers in America”? Hm?