Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hypocrisy Over The Al Jazeera Deal

Al Jazeera America, Test Case For An Open Society

Neil Macdonald writes:

The network, owned and operated by the Emirate of Qatar, no longer has anything to prove about the quality of its journalism. It has won all sorts of prestigious awards and broken all sorts of stories.

It is now in 80 million homes worldwide, and is known in our business as the outfit that's always in places nobody else covers.

Late last year, for example, as the rest of the English-language media were concentrating on the crisis in Egypt, AJE's Nazanine Moshiri was travelling with the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, broadcasting live several times a day.

That sort of thing has made the network a must-watch for agencies like the U.S. State Department, especially as Western networks and newspapers scale back, closing their foreign bureaus wholesale.

But Americans with enough savvy to seek out AJE must do so on the internet. Because after more than six years of operation, the network remains effectively locked out of the American cable TV market.

Last week, after the announcement that AJE had bought Al Gore's Current TV (for something like $500 million), and with it access to as many as 40 million American homes, Time Warner immediately announced it was dropping Current from its cable roster.

The move was reminiscent of the Comcast decision not to carry AJE here when the network first launched in 2006.
It's been a pattern. The country that, in the name of free speech, allows flag-burning, Ku Klux Klan marches and protests at military funerals by religious zealots hoisting "God hates fags" placards decided years ago that AJE represents the kind of speech it simply cannot tolerate.
"It's insane that a country as important and as vibrant and diverse as the United States would have such a banana republic approach to news and information," says Tony Burman, the former CBC editor in chief who spent years as AJE's managing director, trying to win cable TV carriage in the U.S. market.
"The fear-mongering has been surreal."

Jon Stewart pointed out on the Daily Show:

"somehow they've overlooked boss Rupert Murdoch's twenty-percent stake in Rotana, an Arab station co-owned by Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Rupert Murdoch profiting from the airing of that type of anti-American propaganda? Say it ain't so. "

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