Al Jazeera English: Bombastic, Or Comcastic?

Reports are circulating that Al Jazeera English, the "toned down" version of Al Jazeera, has been making rounds this week among some of America's largest cable operators, including Philadelphia-based Comcast.

Managing director Al Anstey's goal: to secure carriage agreements.

The pitches will likely center on free speech, freedom of religion, and free-flowing money (from the Emir of Qatar).  Arguments will be made that Al Jazeera serves an underserved, very small minority of our society, further bolstered by claims of a dramatic (2,500%) spike in Al Jazeera Web traffic during the recent Egyptian uprising, half of which reportedly came from the United States.

What's a large, socially conscious MSO to do?

Well, to start, let's look at content, because, after all, this is all that really matters to the TV world.  Based on a review of their program guide, shows like  "Witness:  Yemen - School of Democracy"; "Empire: Information Wars"; and "People and Power: The Pied Piper of Jihad," all look to provide valuable and diverse new ways of thinking about the world around us.

I cannot verify reports, however, that one of Al Jazeera's most popular shows, "Sharia and Life," will be broadcast on Al Jazeera English.  Much to this writer's chagrin, S&L's host, Muslim televangelist Youssef (or Yusuf) al-Qaradawi, who was twice asked to lead the Muslim Brotherhood (but declined), was not available for comment locally, as he has been banned from entering the United States for over a decade now.

Beyond cheerleading the destruction of Israel and the death of all "Jewish Zionists, every last one of them," he has reportedly provided equally... unique?... recommendations for dealing with many nagging social problems, including the occasional feisty female ("blows are not effective with every woman, but they are helpful with some"). Let's not be too hasty to judge, however -- in a bold and modern move to the center, the big YaQ has also been sourced as acknowledging a woman's right to make some important decisions for themselves; Qaradawi admits, for example, that a husband's permission is not needed, if she wishes to blow herself up in an Isreali café.

Kind of sheds new light on  Janis Joplin's  singing "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

Now certainly, these citations and references may, to some readers, draw unnecessary attention to Al Jazeera's fringe programs, and the radical politics simmering beneath its polished surface.  Nonetheless, it does raise a valid question - "Should a man who is not allowed to enter this country, physically, be allowed to enter it, via broadcast?"

More importantly, should a network that promotes this kind of mindset, be allowed to permeate our culture through our airwaves?

And of course, the question that we must ultimately face, as Al Jazeera TV and mosques at Ground Zero become more and more numbingly mainstreamed, is, at what point do we get off the slippery slope, and just say "No"?

Comcast and others are about to come face to face with a very important decision; public pressure will be further shrouded by well-funded initiatives, cloaked in poorly-understood concepts like "democracy" and "religious freedom."

In reality, what we're seeing playing out on the airwaves of Al Jazeera is a study on mobocracy, as it morphs into theocracy across the African continent, the Middle East, and its outer suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin.

Sanitizing Al Jazeera for American audiences is just the next step in a patient, multi-generational game of Risk.  Al Jazeera in our living rooms represents an advance scouting party, settling snugly inside the IPG (Interactive Program Guide), which suddenly appears to be an acronym for Increasingly Porous Gatekeeper.

So - what do YOU think?  Is Al Jazeera's carriage campaign a prescient pitch...

Or a sleeper sell?

Tags: television, tv
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9 comments about "Al Jazeera English: Bombastic, Or Comcastic?".
  1. Thomas Siebert from WOLFGANG SOLO: Strategic Communications & Benevolent Propaganda , February 23, 2011 at 4:51 p.m.

    Is this supposed to be satire? I hope the pseudonym is a nod acknowledging this is a put on, and not an attempt to hide from statements that are borderline xenophobic and endorse corporate censorship of views the writer finds unsettling.

  2. Aarona Jordan from Channel One/Alloy , February 23, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing what many others wouldn't have the courage to reveal, that Al Jazeera has a lot to offer Americans of any ethnicity or religion who want a broader opinion- as to the more narrow-minded, toxic and inflammatoru content- well we deal with that already it's called Fox News.

  3. Katie Paine from Paine Publishing , February 23, 2011 at 5:16 p.m.

    I want my AJE! I'm one of the thousands of American's who are very grateful to AJE for providing on-site up to the minute news from Cairo and other mid-East uprisings. Other than NPR's Andy Carvin @acarvin, the traditional news outlets have been a dollar short and about a day behind in covering the news. Thank GOD Allah or the Emir that AJE has been there to provide us some real news.

  4. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , February 23, 2011 at 5:21 p.m.

    I wish the author had included a set of specific instructions on how we are supposed to choose our broadcast outlets of hatred, ... maybe a "color guide" of some sort?

    For example; Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Fox lineup on one end of the scale - the "White enough to be heard" side - and Al Jazeera on the "Not quite white enough" side.

    I think the idea has merit. We Americans definitely have a need for spoon-feeding as we attempt to navigate the tricky areas of targeted hatred. Maybe a mass meeting is in order, where we can formulate some lists of "things to despise".

    For dramatic purposes, I'd suggest that it be held at night, so we could gather and work by the light of piles of burning books.

  5. Brian Rock from Network Ten , February 24, 2011 at 12:17 a.m.

    I'm with Thomas. I don't know if this is meant to be serious or not. I'm inclined to think it's not meant to be taken seriously.

    The real John Hancock was one of the strongest advocates of the US Bill of Rights. That this "John Hancock" seems to have little time for the First Amendment is ironic, to say the least.

  6. Mike Bloxham from Frank N. Magid Associates , February 24, 2011 at 12:23 p.m.

    "In reality, what we're seeing playing out on the airwaves of Al Jazeera is a study on mobocracy, as it morphs into theocracy across the African continent, the Middle East, and its outer suburbs of Madison, Wisconsin."

    An interesting and deeply ironic paraphrasing of something that easily have been written in the English press or stated in Parliament as the War of Independence (or Revolution depending on one's perspective) got underway. Perhaps Al Jazeera then would have been the Committees of Correspondence.

    I think there's more to this piece than hatred and xenophobia, but the solution to increasingly intractable international problems is not to exclude the opposing view. Nor, for that matter, does not lie in cutting off pathetically small amounts of funding to about the only home-grown source of remotely substantive and balanced news for nakedly political reasons while claiming it will make a meaningful dent in the budget deficit.

  7. Brigitte Underwood , February 24, 2011 at 5:39 p.m.

    I want to be able to watch AJE on US cable. They provide investigative journalism and a contrast to Fox news for example. Why not offer it and if you dont like it dont watch it?!? Simple as that. Here in the US we can already receive TV subscriptions from other countries; latin america, asia etc. Its about time the Middle East was represented. It would help to dismiss ignorance about the Middle East. Ignorance is not bliss. The correct information can help to dismiss ignorance; t.ex that most Americans assume that most Arabs are Muslim and therefore terrorists. NOT TRUE!

    AJE has been trying to help NYC set up meetings about this on Meetup.com

  8. Joseph Caprio from CITYLIFE PRODUCTIONS , February 24, 2011 at 6:42 p.m.

    When i listen to the news , I listen to the facts,not the rheteric just the facts. We are a global society now ,look around you. Huntly and Brinkly, Walter Cronkite and others reported the news but diden't slant it,incite it or become it. You don't need newsman who are bookwriters, leaders of causes , and blowhards hammering home hate every night here , in the middle east or anywhere. This is America, the freest country in the world.le'ts keep it that way

  9. Brigitte Underwood , February 25, 2011 at 11:26 a.m.

    I want to be able to watch AJE on US cable. They provide investigative journalism and a contrast to Fox news for example. Why not offer it and if you dont like it dont watch it?!? Simple as that. Here in the US we can already receive TV subscriptions from other countries; latin america, asia etc. Its about time the Middle East was represented. It would help to dismiss ignorance about the Middle East. Ignorance is not bliss. The correct information can help to dismiss ignorance; t.ex that most Americans assume that most Arabs are Muslim and therefore terrorists. NOT TRUE!

    AJE has been trying to help NYC set up meetings about this on Meetup.com