The controversial news network Al Jazeera, with Arabic base in Quatar, has this week launched its English-language sister network to great reviews. That is, great reviews by those who managed to tune in.
It turns out that, although I am receiving the transmission via my beautiful new satellite television system in the United Kingdom, no one in Canada has access to the news network. Only four channels in the United States have signed a viewing agreement with Al Jazeera. The four are all relatively small stations (their number of viewers in the low thousands). It’s unclear whether this North American hole in viewing statistics will be righted any time soon, especially since the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hasn’t yet managed to air any of the original Arabic programs after ordering delayed programming and not finding anyone to properly monitor the station 24 hours a day. It seems unlikely that Canadians will see this network anytime soon, given the CRTC sees fit to censor a foreign news station in the first place.
Aside from this obvious glitch in the sparkling new network launch, the British took to the programming very well, enjoying the chance for an unorthodox look at the Middle East via completely local eyes. All in all, this has got to be the future of news corporations, doesn’t it? We can hardly be expected to put up with local and national bias for the rest of our civilization’s existence, can we?
Maybe this is the start of a generation that offers bigger news networks and has more comprehensive and honest news casting. After all, who do you trust more to report a news story — someone who lives in the vicinity and knows all the complicated history, or an overseas journalist flown in especially for the incident?
Of course, this isn’t a completely fair assessment, but the point is the English Al Jazeera network is offering a great and unique opportunity (not only for viewers, but also to the television stations that take it on and actually broadcast it). I think most people will agree that North Americans have nothing to lose by watching a little pure foreign opinion.