Al Jazeera to launch English-language channel

intriguing news:

The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera, denounced and bombed by the US and banned by the Iraqi government, has begun recruiting staff for a channel in English that will show news and documentaries.

"The brief is emphatically not to do an English translation of the Arabic channel," said Nigel Parsons, the project manager. "It will have international appeal and fill a lot of gaps in existing output."

The original Arabic news channel, established in 1996 and funded by the emir of Qatar, not only bucked the trend towards frivolity and light entertainment but broke many taboos, interviewing Israeli politicians and allowing debate of a kind rarely seen on Arab television.
The English channel's target audience is worldwide - "not just Muslims who don't speak Arabic", Mr Parsons said. "I think we might have a ready audience there, but it is not going to be an anti-western or anti-American channel. Absolutely not."

The aim will be to fill a gap in the market vacated by other channels.

"If you take CNN, in the [United] States, they have been dragged to the right by Fox. Internationally, they definitely had a bad war in the Gulf. They have lost some credibility on the international stage.

"Where the BBC would come into the equation is that there has been a definite retreat ... on the news channels. Levels of coverage of the developing world are 40% of what they were when Michael Buerk first did the Ethiopian famine."

Surely Al-J can never silence its critics with regard to bias. Given that scrupulously fair news organizations like NPR get hammered by left and right alike, and that Fox news is passionately defended as a bastion of objectivity by its fans, I think that arguing about bias is a fools' errand.

What is more important is that al-J provides an authentically independent voice - free of control from either the Arab regimes or the Bush Administration, both of whom hate al-J for essentially the same reason. The ideal of free speech is served well by a media that is accountable to none and that is aggressive about airing all points of view.

Keep in mind that in addition to airing bin Laden's rants, they also provided more hours of convention coverage (both DNC and RNC) than all the domestic channels combined. The audiences of Al-Jazeera are getting both sides indeed - and I think that our side, not bin Laden's, fares better in the comparison.

Al-Jazeera will be an element in the eventual reclamation of true political liberty in the Middle East. The authentic, hard-fought, springs-from-within kind.

I've previously blogged on Al-Jazeera, in a series examining how the channel has been systematically targeted for silencing here in the US, from DNS attacks on its website to being banned from the NYSE (one, two, three). The trend continued at the Democratic convention, where al-J was forbidden to show its logo on its skybox (unlike other media outlets). The RNC, however, had no problem. Kudos to the RNC, and shame on the Democrats.


David said...

Don't they always refer to suicide bombers as martyrs?

Dan said...

My only concern would be how they're going to handle the televised sermons of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi now that he has called for the killing of Americian civilians as well as soldiers in Iraq.

There is a great deal of discussion that can be had over various types of media outlets and their editorial slants or lack thereof, but at the same time I think that al-Qaradawi's sermons pose a somewhat unique problem to getting the full al-Jazeera experience in English if that's what the network is planning to broadcast.

Joshua Scholar said...

Read the rest at:

Everything he says is important....
MAMOUN FANDY: Some basic facts about Al Jazeera that people should know straightforwardly. First of all, Al Jazeera is not as independent as many talk about here in the West. It's a state-owned television owned by the state of Qatar. Everyone who works in Al Jazeera is a state employee. So the idea of Al Jazeera as independent Arab channel is a myth. A second thing that's relating to Al Jazeera and other channels, and this is probably -might be seen as an outrageous statement by others - but Arab media is free under occupation. They are not free anywhere else; that they can report whatever they want from Iraq under the Americans or Palestine under the Israelis, but next door there was the killing of Kurds in Qamishli last month, in Syria, and Al Jazeera was nowhere to be found. There is a genocidal campaign in Western Sudan in Darfur, and there is no coverage of that.


BROOKE GLADSTONE: So you're saying those who have tried to buck the trend in the Arab media are murdered?

MAMOUN FANDY: Absolutely. Many, many journalists. A friend of mine-- he disappeared from Cairo last August. These are people who tried to be good journalists in the Arab world, and it is, it's an uphill battle. As far as the American media, yes, there is an absence of context. There is an absence of basic information about the Arab world, and sometimes the American media is extremely gullible as far as taking Al Jazeera reporting as if it were legitimate reporting and put the pictures from Al Jazeera as if they were legitimate pictures. The Americans thought that Al Jazeera is somehow the, the Arab CNN, but it's not the case whatsoever. Al Jazeera is not CNN. Al Jazeera is not journalism, period.

Aziz Poonawalla said...

David, you might want to try to ascertain the truth of that statement from primary, rather than tertiary, sources.

(That critique applies to others as well)

Joshua Scholar said...

I've seen enough of Al Jazeera to have my own opinion thank you.

I just thought your readers might grant Mamoun Fandy's opinions more authority than my own (identical opinions).