Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 11 Jan 2013
, Heather Maher: "Al-Jazeera is expanding again, this time into the United States. Al-Jazeera America will reach 40 million households when it launches this spring. The channel finally won entry into the U.S. market with the purchase -- for an undisclosed sum reported to be $500 million -- of Current TV, a struggling cable network started by former Vice President Al Gore. ... Media analysts say now is a good time for Al-Jazeera to try and capture U.S. viewers because its reputation in America is on the rise. ... The network’s coverage of the Arab Spring was a high point, impressing Americans who appreciated its in-depth coverage of a story U.S. broadcasters covered lightly, if at all."
Haaretz, 10 Jan 2013, James Kirchick (former RFE/RL writer-at-large): "[V]ital to understanding Al Jazeera is acknowledging that it does have an ideology. This is something that many of its Western fan boys choose to ignore. Calling the network’s ethos an 'ideology', however, gives its modus operandi a little too much credit; the network, despite its protestations, is ultimately a tool of Qatari foreign policy. ... Al Jazeera’s standpoint is just as pronounced, if not more so, than that of Fox News."
Columbia Journalism Review, 9 Jan 2013, Vivian Salama: "Al Jazeera English reaches 250 million households in 130 countries, but North American remains a place with potential for tremendous growth; officials with the company say that its English-language website receives some 50 percent of its daily traffic from the United States and Canada. ... Many questions remain about Al Jazeera’s American enterprise at this juncture, including whether the Qatari government will seek heavy involvement in its content, as well as about the news executives who will become the architects of this new network. 'There is an enormous interest in Qatar to have a greater presence in the US, and having that blackout is very harmful to that interest,' says Everette Dennis, dean of the Qatar campus of Northwestern University, on the fact that Al Jazeera is mostly unavailable to viewers here."
Politico, 12 Jan 2013, Dylan Byers: "In retrospect, the $500 million buy-in appears to have been the easy part. Now, Al Jazeera must convince American audiences that a Middle Eastern-based news network — owned by the Emir of Qatar, and therefore funded largely by foreign oil wealth — can be both credible and compelling. That effort is complicated by the network’s flagship Arabic channel, which is radically different from its English-language counterpart."
NewsBusters, 13 Jan 2013, Tom Blumer: "The burning question on the mind of Dylan Byers Saturday afternoon at the Politico -- a question that somehow merited over 2,000 words of content -- was 'Al Jazeera America (AJA): Will they watch?' He could have answered his question in eleven words: 'Except for segments of America's Muslim community, the answer is "no."'"
GOPUSA, 11 Jan 2013, Cliff Kincaid: "If Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) lets the Al Jazeera-Al Gore deal go through without scrutiny, then every broadcast entity or communications facility in America is ripe for the plucking by any of our nation’s enemies and adversaries. ... First, there are unresolved complaints to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) about Al Jazeera’s operations in the U.S. Jerry Kenney of Kenney Broadcasting has asked that the DOJ enforce the law by requiring that foreign propaganda pumped into American homes by Al Jazeera be labeled as such. He says, 'Why is it that if I buy a pair of tennis shoes made in China, it has to be labeled made in China? But foreign propaganda which is being aired in the U.S. is not being labeled as foreign propaganda, with its country of origin, in violation of the law?'"
CBC News, 11 Jan 2013, Neil McDonald: "Most Westerners have no idea where N'Djamena is. Al Jazeera English operates a news bureau there (it's the capital of Chad). AJE also has correspondents in Juba, Diyarbakir, Harare, Khartoum, Nouakchott, Skopje, and about 65 other cities, including a North American metropolis all but ignored by big U.S. media: Toronto. 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. ... An old colleague of mine (there are no end of Canadians at AJE) thinks the key is to consciously look and sound as starkly different as possible from the rest of the American pack. '"I'd put up a picture of [reality star] Kim Kardashian,' he said, 'with a voiceover saying "Take a look at her. Because this is the last time you will ever see her on this station. Welcome to Al Jazeera."' That's a pitch I'd buy."
Toronto Star, 12 Jan 2013, Tony Burman, former head of Al Jazeera English: The sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera "is certain to shake up the U.S. media world. It challenges the selective fealty of the American political and corporate class to the principle of true free expression. It reveals how aggressively the tiny Gulf state of Qatar, which owns Al Jazeera, wants to expand its global profile and influence in the U.S. And Al Jazeera, which has always had an ambivalence about its mission in the U.S., will be forced to take America and its story seriously if it truly wants to attract American viewers. ... Al Jazeera’s challenge won’t be an easy one. My sense of Al Jazeera today is that it is becoming a more 'top-down,' centrally driven news operation than ever before. All news programs and most editorial decisions now come out of Qatar. Al Jazeera America will force it to change if it wants to succeed. For news channels to thrive in the U.S., America’s story must be 'made in America.' Al Jazeera has time to turn it around before 'the lights go on' in these 40 million homes, but not much time. The American TV marketplace waits for no one, and rarely grants a second chance."
US News & World Report, 10 Jan 2013, Leslie Pitterson: "For those who lament the lack of international news coverage, Al-Jazeera America is a promising development. Its coverage of global stories has guided the network's growth from the first uncensored network in the Arab world to a major voice in the global south. Today, Al-Jazeera can been seen in over 220 million households and in more than 120 countries. From reporting on the war on terror to unrest in sub-Saharan Africa, the network has reported world news from a unique perspective. But perhaps it is in the early stages of stories like the U.S. use of drones and the Arab Spring, which often required truncated history lessons from many American cable news outlets, that best illustrate the value of Al-Jazeera in the media landscape."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10 Jan 2013, editorial: "Americans ... who saw the value of checking out Al Jazeera's coverage of the Arab Spring, for instance, had to be content with accessing the network via the Internet. Those who tuned in were pleasantly surprised by the depth, sophistication and evenhandedness of a news network U.S. politicians have demagogued for years. At a time when U.S. news networks are shutting down foreign bureaus and reducing the airtime devoted to international news, Al Jazeera is expanding its coverage of the Middle East, Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa. Once Americans are exposed to credible alternatives to news coverage of international events, there may be pressure on their homegrown media to take other perspectives seriously. The world is a very complex place."
Baltimore Sun, 9 Jan 2013, David Zurawik: "[T]o those who wrote ... asking if I understood how biased Al Jazeera is. The answer is yes... . But you should know it's not the kind of bias some fools are talking about when they recklessly throw around words like 'terrorist' and 'terrorism.' The bias is toward a geographic orientation or consequent set of narratives described as 'Global South.' And given U.S. history, it is one we desperately need to understand and think about if we are truly going to function globally in the new world order. In some ways, it is a reaction to the history of 'Global North' colonialism, which is the underpinning of the structure and the orientation of the BBC. Think of it as a counterbalance to that bias, particularly in the Middle East." -- Mr. Zurawek's negative assessment of the BBC suffers from the same cause as the negative assessment of "some fools" of Al Jazeera English: he hasn't watched enough. In the past two decades, at least, BBC's coverage of the global South has been comprehensive and fair. Furthermore, BBC has the advantage of Al Jazeera by not claiming to be "the voice of the voiceless," but instead maintaining the detachment that befits a true news organization.
Forward, 9 Jan 2013, M. Berger: "In the Middle East, networks financed by Western countries — such as France24, the BBC’s Arabic Service, Russia’s RT and Voice of America — have long been a staple of local airwaves. Now, the United States may be about to experience a Middle East-owned network talking back."
The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8 Jan 2013: "Al Jazeera is from Qatar. Al Jazeera gave us the Arab Spring. Look how it turned out. Al Jazeera was the coverage there."
Human Events, 7 Jan 2013, David Harsanyi: "The problem with Al Jazeera isn’t just that it might be left of the mainstream or anti-American in perspective, it’s that it is anti-American in the purest sense – a network that is state-owned and operated. And not just any state, but Qatar an absolute theocratic monarchy and terror booster (I wonder how many New Yorkers would liked [sic] contribute to a network, whose owner just handed Hamas a $400 million check?)"
The Jewish Press, 9 Jan 2013, editorial: "In his Council on Foreign Relations blog, former senior State Department official Elliott Abrams said this about the sale: 'Henceforth, tens of millions of Americans will receive Al Jazeera English in their homes. It would be nice if the channel carried a little warning label to viewers, clarifying who owns Al Jazeera so that they understand they are getting all the news…that the Qatari government wants them to have.' Abrams went on to note that the British government owns the BBC, Deutsche Welle is owned by the German government, France 24 is controlled by a French government agency and even the Voice of America is owned by the U.S. government. But, he said, they and others like them openly disclose their provenance on their websites. Yet this is what Al Jazeera’s website declares: 'Al-Jazeera English is an international news channel with over sixty bureaus around the world that span six different continents…. Al Jazeera English is part of the Al Jazeera Network – one of the world’s leading media corporations, encompassing news, documentary and sport channels….' Nothing at all about the Qatar connection. Abrams summed up: 'Every government has the right to present a news channel, and has the right to decide whether that channel will be fully independent of government policy – like the BBC – or will reflect government policy – like Al Jazeera. The answer is not censorship, but candor; if Al Jazeera were called Voice of Qatar, and clearly labeled as that nation’s international broadcaster, the situation would be clear to its viewers."
The Jewish Press, 9 Jan 2013, Jonathan S. Tobin: "It’s not clear that the oil-rich magnates of Qatar will make their money back on this deal. Nor is it likely that Al Jazeera’s news with an Islamist and anti-American and anti-Israel slant will transform the discussion of the Middle East. But it may provide a bully pulpit to voices that have heretofore been confined to the fever swamps of U.S. politics and become another beachhead into the U.S. for those seeking to heighten international isolation of the Jewish state."
Washington Times, 8 Jan 2013, Ivan Kenneally: "Al-Jazeera has earned a reputation for its extreme illiberalism. First, the network is state-run and so premised on the rejection of free speech and an independent press. It has intimidated dissent and manipulates the news to serve despotic state ends. ... Al-Jazeera hates American conservatives and Israel. ... Tune in to Al-Jazeera U.S. soon to see for yourself."
Washington Post, 9 Jan 2013, Paul Farhi, via Philly.com: "Al-Jazeera says it will operate AJE and Al-Jazeera America as separate channels, although about 40 percent of AJE's content will appear on the new channel. It will utilize some of the resources of its existing Washington bureaus when it launches this year. In addition, it plans to add five news bureaus across the country to the 10 that AJE already operates. The deal could mark a new era in a new hemisphere for a news organization that helped smash apart government control of information in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera - the name means 'the peninsula' in Arabic - transcended national censors when it began broadcasting across the Middle East via satellite in 1996."
Huffington Post, 9 Jan 2013, Geri Spieler: "Are we uncomfortable with news that has not been sanitized by our own American-based networks? Is that the reason there is so much pushback to Al Jazeera English on U.S. network TV? I think so. It seems we don't want to see anything that doesn't show the U.S. in the best light. We don't want to see what really happens in the field. We don't want the visions of war in our faces. We only want to hear of casualties, not see them. We only want to hear how the good guys (us) win and the bad guys (them) are being defeated. American media sanitizes war. None of the violence or carnage is ever seen on American television. This selectivity blinds us to real world events. We sit safe in our homes only to hear about numbers of people killed, but never seeing the death and destruction. ... The jury is still out that their English version will not be biased in favor of the Arab world. It will, however, offer an alternative view from our own of the Arab world."
National Review Online, 10 Jan 2013, Clifford D. May: "I’ve appeared on AJ English quite a few times. Like Current TV and MSNBC, it presents itself as a voice of the Left. AJ English does not overtly promote the ideology of Islamism, but it does present it as mainstream, suggesting an affinity between Islamist and leftist values. Whenever I’ve been on a program, I’ve had an opportunity to provide my analysis and opinions. But, invariably, I will be outnumbered: At least two other guests, as well as the interviewer, will vehemently disagree with me. Anyone versed in Strategic Communications 101 will recognize this as a technique designed to marginalize one set of views and promote another."
The Daily Beast, 8 Jan 2013, Patrick N. Theos: "Al Jazeera, however, has faced down the opposition to become a media powerhouse and the voice of the region. I have no doubt that it will overcome the small-minded ignorance that seeks to block its entry into the U.S. Al Jazeera deserves a place on the U.S. broadcasting spectrum. More important, the American viewer deserves the opportunity to experience the network’s high-quality, uniquely positioned look at the Middle East and the world."
KCET (Los Angeles) , 10 Jan 2013: "Al Jazeera's English newscast runs here on KCET. From the start, Al Jazeera has had its share of controversy and more than its share of difficulty breaking into the larger American market." With video interview with Brian Stelter of the New York Times.
New York, 11 Jan 2013, Caroline Shin: "As the ink still dries on the Current TV-Al Jazeera deal, Fox News has unsurprisingly sounded the alarm on Al Gore's 'anti-American' nature. However, as Jon Stewart pointed out on last night's 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 accountable for airing Valley of the Wolves, a film in which American soldiers massacre Iraqi civilians and sell their organs to Jews. 'Rupert Murdoch profiting from the airing of that type of anti-American propaganda?' says Stewart. Say it ain't so." With video.
Times Union (Albany), 11 Jan 2013, Lloyd Constantine: "There are some positive signs that Al Jazeera America may be able to overcome its propagandistic past to become a major source of hard and objective news. It won high praise from Sen. John McCain and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for its objective coverage of the Arab Spring and more recently for its reports about suppression of revolutionary movements in Arab countries. And while Al Jazeera's ownership still raises disturbing questions as it seeks a major audience in American homes, hard news on cable is something we really need — not partisanship, sensationalism and gossip."
Washington Post, 11 Jan 2013, letter from Shannon Sollinger: "About two years ago, whoever was masquerading as a news person on whichever network broadcast I happened to be watching at that moment said the words 'Charlie Sheen' one time too many. I fled, surfed channels in desperation and stumbled upon Al-Jazeera English. I’ve never left. By concentrating on and reporting news, Al-Jazeera English provides blissful relief from the info-pap that prevails on our so-called news shows. The reporters seem to be everywhere, including ducking incoming fire in Libya and on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The televised discussion groups bring diverse viewpoints and informed exchanges — but not once, since I have been watching, has one of the panelists giggled. Or even chuckled."
See previous post about same subject.