Al Jazeera English going global 11/14/2006

Al Jazeera, the highly controversial Arab satellite TV station, announced that it will launch on Wednesday a global channel dubbed Al Jazeera English. It’s about time! Americans, whether liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, constantly bicker about the overarching bias of certain broadcasting networks. One that gets mentioned as often if not more than any other is FOX News. The bottom line, however, is that they’re all biased. American TV networks can claim to be as “fair and balanced” as they want, however the undeniable aspect of it is that they’re all biased, and always will be, for the simple fact that they are the Western media. CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, BBC, etc., all owned and operated by the Western world.

It is in this respect that Al Jazeera differs from the rest. According to Wadah Khanfar, head of the Al Jazeera network, Al Jazeera is “the only international network that is based in the developing world.” Khanfar claims, and I agree with him, that this gives Al Jazeera a strategic advantage. For example, when an international news team covers a story in the Middle East they will travel to the location and meet up with other Western colleagues, share information, report a story, and go home. However, Al Jazeera has local correspondents throughout the Middle East, individuals already embedded within their respective societies, which Khanfar says will provide for much better insight. Al Jazeera English will explain the Middle East region to the outside world, because “the role of the media is to give an honest understanding of reality,” Khanfar says.

Many nations have long been at odds with Al Jazeera. Although clashes been Al Jazeera and the United States have received the most media attention, several Middle Eastern countries have raised complaints against the network; such as Saudi Arabia, who has never allowed the bureau to operate within its territory. Even Qatar, the country which is home to Al Jazeera, has been critical in many instances.

What remains to be seen is just how many people will have access to Al Jazeera English, given that it is a satellite TV station. I can see it gaining initial popularity in European countries, where there is no big brother-ish corporate America controlled media that certainly does not want Al Jazeera English to be broadcasted. After the democrats’ mid-term election landslide over republicans last week in the House of Representatives and the Senate, one can only imagine the repercussions the executive branch would be forced to endure if the American public were to actually find out the truth about our foreign policy with respect to the Middle East.

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