Al Jazeera NOT AVAILABLE on TV inside the U.S.A
Bringing the Real World Home
By Roger Cohen
Al Jazeera's English news channel offers insight into a worldview that few in the US understand. To beat the counter insurgency abroad and confront the ramifications of America's waning influence, Americans should start tuning in.
This screen shot shows an Al Jazeera broadcast of the most recent Osama Bin Laden video, released last month.
This sounds like a scene from Donald Rumsfeld’s private hell. The former secretary of defense dismissed Al Jazeera as a “mouthpiece of Al Qaeda.” He once called the network, which is based in and owned by Qatar, “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable.”
In an indication of what the Bush administration thinks of Al Jazeera journalism (and habeas corpus), it has locked up one of the network’s cameramen, Sami al-Hajj, in Guantánamo Bay for more than five years without charging him.
The choice of viewing at the NATO gym is a lot wiser than Rumsfeld’s choice of words or the terrible treatment of Hajj. America, and not just its front-line soldiers, needs to watch Al Jazeera to understand how the world has changed. Any other course amounts to self-destructive blindness.
The first change that must be grasped is America’s diminished ability to influence people. Global access to information now amounts to an immense à la carte menu. Networks escape control. To hundreds of millions of people accessing information for the first time, from central China to Kenya’s Rift Valley, the United States can easily look exclusive and less relevant to their future.
The second essential change is the erosion of American power. Samantha Power, the author and Harvard professor, calls this “the core fact of recent years.”
America’s hard power -- its military -- is compromised by intractable counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its economy is strained; witness the ever feebler dollar. Its soft power -- the resonance of the American idea -- has been hurt by a loss of legitimacy (Hajj languishing) and by incompetence (Iraq).
The third essential change is the solidification of anti-Americanism as a political idea. Jihadist Islamism is the most violent expression of this, but its agents benefit from swimming in a sea of less murderous resentments.
In response to all this, America can say to heck with an ungrateful world. It can mutter about third, even fourth, world wars. Therein lies a downward spiral. Or it can try to grasp the new, multinetworked world as it is.
To this world Al Jazeera English offers a useful primer. The network can be tendentious -- bin Laden’s face up there for several minutes -- in stomach-turning ways. But, over all, its striving for balanced reporting from a distinct perspective seems genuine.
A year after its launch, it reaches 100 million households worldwide. Its focus is on “reporting from the political south to the political north,” as Nigel Parsons, its managing director, put it. The world it presents, more from the impact than the launch point of U.S. missiles, is one that must be understood.
Yet, the network has been sidelined in the United States. Representative Jim Moran, a Democrat from Virginia, told me: “There’s definitely an attitude here that these guys are the enemy. But in the Mideast, Asia and Europe they have a credibility the U.S. desperately needs.”
Moran met recently with Al Jazeera English executives seeking to extend the service’s Lilliputian reach here. Right now, you can watch it in Toledo, Ohio, through Buckeye Cablesystem, which reaches 147,000 homes.
Or, if you’re in Burlington, Vt., a municipal cable service offers the network to about 1,000 homes. Washington Cable, in the capital, reaches half that. Better options are YouTube or GlobeCast satellite distribution.
These are slim pickings. Al Jazeera English is far more accessible in Israel. Allan Block, the chairman of Block Communications, which owns Buckeye, told me: “It’s a good channel. Sir David Frost and David Marash are not terrorists. The attempt to blackball it is neo-McCarthyism.”
Block, like other cable providers, got protest letters from Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog. Cliff Kincaid, its editor, cites the case of Tayseer Allouni, a former Afghanistan correspondent jailed in Spain for Al Qaeda links. This is evidence, he suggests, that “cable providers shouldn’t give them access.”
Most cable companies have bowed to the pressure while denying politics influenced their decisions. “It just comes down to channel capacity and other programming options,” Jenni Moyer, a Comcast spokeswoman, told me.
Nonsense, says Representative Moran, blaming “political winds plus a risk-averse corporate structure.”
These political winds hurt America. Counterinsurgency has been called armed social science. To win, you must understand the world you’re in.
Comparative courses in how Al Jazeera, CNN, the BBC and U.S. networks portray the Iraq war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be taught in all U.S. high schools and colleges. Al Jazeera English should be widely available.
Al Jazeera struggles to be seen
washington – Ignored or shunned by almost every cable TV provider in the U.S., the Al Jazeera English news channel has turned to the Internet to reach American viewers.
Since April, when Al Jazeera struck a distribution deal with YouTube, the popular video site owned byInc., the channel has received 2 million hits and on one day last month was ranked first, ahead of and other staple fare.
Described by Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former Defense secretary, as a “mouthpiece of Al Qaeda,” the Arabic channel’s English-language offspring was given a hostile reception in the U.S. when it started broadcasting in November.
Only two cable providers, Buckeye CableSystem, which reaches 147,000 homes in northern Ohio, and a small municipal service in Burlington, Vt., that is piped to just 1,000 homes, have so far agreed to offer it to their subscribers.
Al Jazeera, which is based in Qatar, is also available on the Pentagon’s closed-circuit television system for troops and officials. But the main cable providers, such asand Comcast Corp., have avoided it.
“America is fighting a war and Al Jazeera works for the enemy,” says Cliff Kinkaid, the president of Accuracy in Media, a conservative watchdog that has campaigned against the channel. “Would Buckeye CableSystems have broadcast Tokyo Rose [an anti-American propagandist] during World War II? I don’t see any difference.”
Allan Block, the owner of Buckeye, dismisses such criticism as “lunatic ranting.” He also points out that he voted for George W. Bush in 2000. “I have received threats and abuse, mostly from people living in the Bible Belt and almost none of them from Ohio,” Block says.
“They claim I’m carrying a terrorist channel which broadcasts beheadings. But anyone who has watched Al Jazeera realizes it’s a balanced and professional channel that gives people diverse perspectives on international events. And it doesn’t show beheadings.”
The channel, which reaches 90 million homes worldwide – fewer than 1% of them in the United States – has shown savvy in the journalists it has hired, including former employees of ABC, CNN and the BBC. David Marash, a former correspondent at ABC who is one of Al Jazeera’s three U.S.-based anchors, says it helps that people recognize him.
“Frequently, people will call the police when we’re out there doing reporting in America,” he says. “The police come ‘round, they recognize me and that quickly solves the situation,” he says.
Equally effective is the presence of Josh Rushing, Al Jazeera’s U.S. defense and military correspondent, who used to be a captain in the Marines.
Rushing’s previous job was as a spokesman at the U.S. military’s Central Command in Doha, the capital of Qatar and headquarters for the invasion of Iraq. Rushing grew frustrated with what he described as Centcom’s disdain toward Al Jazeera and the fact that the Pentagon would not listen to his argument that it provided a unique, new way for America to reach the “Arab street.”
He resigned from the Marines and was offered a job at the new channel. “I used to represent America to Al Jazeera, now I represent Al Jazeera to America,” Rushing says. “I tell people that Al Jazeera provides a different perspective to CNN but an equally valid one. CNN films the launch of the missile. Al Jazeera films what happens where it lands.”
With the help of YouTube and Al Jazeera’s global website, which gets more than half of its traffic from the U.S. (the channel’s four main bureaus are in Doha, London, Washington and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), some barriers are starting to break down.
“Elected politicians and senior officials still refuse to be interviewed by us,” Marash says. “But people from the think tanks, including some well-known neoconservatives, are very happy to come on Al Jazeera. They appreciate the fact that we go into much more detail than CNN.”
The channel’s leaders hope that U.S. cable providers will eventually be forced by popular demand to include it in their service, much like what MTV achieved with its “I Want My MTV” campaign in the 1980s. But the channel might face an even bigger obstacle than hyped-up fears about terrorism: the public’s lack of interest in international news.
Marash is unfazed. “I think the line about the ‘brave little channel they wouldn’t let you see’ appeals to something in the American spirit,” he says. “I am optimistic that we will succeed in America.”
Tempest Brews Over Al Jazeera English
Media Watchdog Targets Small Ops Carrying Channel
By Linda Moss -- Multichannel News, 5/7/2007
Allan Block was accused of being “a traitor” for adding Al Jazeera English to the lineup at his cable operation, Buckeye CableSystem, just over a month ago.
“One letter said that I should be prosecuted because I’m a traitor in wartime,” said Block, who is chairman of Block Communications, the media company that owns Toledo, Ohio-based Buckeye. “I’m certainly not a traitor to the United States.”
Buckeye’s March 19 launch of the controversial news network, sister channel to Arab-language Al Jazeera, prompted some 50 letters. It also earned Block and Buckeye a critical March 30 press release — and subsequent blistering column on April 3 — from Accuracy in Media, a media-watchdog group.
AIM alleges that Al Jazeera English is essentially “a mouthpiece” and “recruitment vehicle” for several terrorist groups — a charge that both the network and Block deny. AIM has waged a vigorous campaign to block the network’s distribution in the states.
But once Buckeye digital subscribers in Toledo, which has a sizable Middle Eastern population, actually got to see the network, complaints petered off, according to cable-system officials.
“We had minimal, maybe one or two customer disconnects at best, because of it,” said Florence Buchanan, Buckeye’s vice president of sales and marketing.
According to Tom Dawson, Buckeye’s director of government and community affairs, “Since we launched, we probably got as many compliments as we got complaints.”
Al Jazeera English debuted last November with a talent roster that includes domestic TV-news veterans David Frost and Dave Marash. But so far Buckeye, which has 150,000 customers at two cable systems, is the largest U.S. cable company to roll out the network. Aside from Buckeye, Al Jazeera English has little U.S. cable carriage.
Burlington Telecom, a 1,200-subscriber municipal-owned cable system in Vermont, has carried it since December. Washington Cable, a satellite master-antenna television (SMATV) operation, also has it, and the Pentagon airs it on closed-circuit TV. Optical Entertainment Network — an Internet-Protocol TV, fiber-to-the-home overbuilder — offers the network a la carte in Houston.
Right now, a couple of bigger cable companies are doing due diligence, pulling down the network’s signal internally to decide if they should carry it.
“There are several MSOs who are actively evaluating this service,” said Cathy Rasenberger, president of New York-based Rasenberger Media, which handles distribution for the network. “They’re giving it a lot of attention. One has hired a consultant to actually appraise it.”
It’s difficult for any new network to secure distribution, but more so for Al Jazeera English. Its executives said they must overcome what they claim are misconceptions and innuendo about the channel, which they describe as a global news network, as well as distributors’ fears about consumer backlash for carrying it.
“This is the most serious attempt at objective journalism to come out of the Middle East,” Block said. “They provide a different perspective. It is not anti-Western. It is not anti-American.”
The network aims to “bridge cultures and countries,” according to Parsons.
In contrast, the channel’s critics, lead by AIM, allege that Al Jazeera English is sympathetic to terrorist groups and acts as their “mouthpiece.” The network is funded by the emirate in Qatar, which should spark skepticism about its independence, according to AIM editor Cliff Kincaid.
“The bottom line is this is a foreign-government-funded propaganda operation,” Kincaid said. “And during a time of war, it smacks of national suicide to give them a platform in the United States. It would be like during World War II, putting Tokyo Rose on an American broadcasting network.”
Al Jazeera officials deny the allegations being made by the watchdog group.
“I can only describe most of them as rants, and ill-informed ones at that,” Nigel Parsons, managing director for Al Jazeera English, said from Qatar. “It’s kind of beneath contempt to answer it. … Why did Al Qaeda call us and accuse us of being Mossad agents, the same time as Donald Rumsfeld is accusing us of being the mouthpiece for Al Qaeda?”
According to Block: “Accuracy in Media has been trying to do a smear job on Al Jazeera English, basically calling anyone who’d even consider carrying it a traitor. There’s a McCarthy-like smear campaign to keep this channel off. But this channel is not a threat to America. It is not helping terrorists.”
Parsons also maintained that the Qatar doesn’t try to influence Al Jazeera English’s content.
“The government knows very well the day they interfere over the editorial, that’s the end of the brand,” he said.
Qatar is a U.S. ally in the Mideast, Block said, so disparaging that nation is a slap that undermines U.S. interests.
But Block is “going to have to take the heat” for putting on Al Jazeera English, according to Kincaid, who doesn’t believe things have settled down in Toledo.
“We’ve heard from a number of people in his area who think he’s aiding the enemy,” Kincaid said. “He’s got a significant Arab-Muslim population there, and I think he’s going to increase the anti-American sentiments of those people.”
And AIM doesn’t plan to let up on its campaign.
“You can rest assured we will continue our efforts,” Kincaid said. “I can’t be specific, though.”
Block believes that AIM’s anti-Al Jazeera effort has had a big impact. Back in November he received what appeared to be a form letter from Kincaid, thanking him for not carrying Al Jazeera English. Block said he hadn’t ever been contacted by AIM before getting that written correspondence.
Kincaid acknowledged that he wrote to distributors about Al Jazeera English last fall.
“The American people don’t want it,” he said. “We did a poll on it. We had simply sent a letter — together with some of our materials, including our DVD — to the various U.S. cable and satellite providers, saying just that: 'Thank you for not carrying it.’ ”
Currently, the Internet is Al Jazeera English’s main U.S. distribution outlet. The network is available on the service’s web site, www.aljazeera.net/english, for a $5.95 monthly fee, and as streaming video through Real Networks. Earlier this month, Al Jazeera English announced a deal to offer a branded channel on YouTube.
EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network offers the Arab-language Al Jazeera network as part of an Arabic tier, but doesn’t carry the English spinoff.
Last November, Al Jazeera English was in final talks on a carriage deal with Comcast, but that fell through.
It was a big blow to the network, Parsons conceded, and he believes the nation’s largest cable company succumbed to pressure.
“They [Comcast] are commercially driven, that’s fair enough, and they’re always going to question what a news-and-current-affairs channel brings,” said Parsons, though he added: “I suspect they were subjected to some sort of lobby campaign, and decided not to take a punt after all. They were probably worried about consumer backlash. But the more consumers who see it, the feedback from the U.S., apart from AIM, has just been all positive.”
Despite speculation about pressure, Comcast said it opted not to carry Al Jazeera English because there was more consumer demand for other products in markets like Detroit, where there’s a large Arab population.
“We looked at the local lineup and determined that the channel capacity would be better used to add other channels and services that our customers have been asking for, like more HD and HD On Demand programming,” Comcast senior director of corporate communications Jenni Moyer said.
Burlington Telecom, a startup, first heard about Al Jazeera English last November, after stories appeared about Comcast’s talks to carry it falling through, according to Richard Donnelly, the Vermont system’s marketing and sales manager.
As part of his due diligence, Donnelly watched the channel for a week, and said, “It seemed like CNN, but on the other side of the world. It didn’t seem very volatile or controversial, in terms of its production and content.”
Some potential subscribers called to complain that they would not sign up with Burlington Telecom because it was “carrying that terrorist channel,” according to Donnelly.
“We’ve invited them to come down and watch it before they jump to conclusions,” Donnelly said.
Some of the network’s critics later signed up for Burlington Telecom service, he added.
Buckeye has a five-year deal to carry Al Jazeera English, with free carriage for the initial years of the contract, with a monthly three-cent, per-subscriber license fee the final year.
Both Donnelly and Block said that they added Al Jazeera English to their lineups as part of their effort to give subscribers diversity in programming.
“We’ve had a couple of people say, 'Thank you, we really appreciate the perspective that this news provides,’ ” Donnelly said. “We’ve also had people say that this is the conduit for the terrorist Al Qaeda and that slippery slope.”
Launched 15 November 2006
Owned by Al Jazeera
Slogan Setting The News Agenda
Broadcast area coverage maps and availability information
Headquarters Broadcast Centers: Doha, Kuala Lumpur, London and Washington D.C.
Sister channel(s) Al Jazeera
Auckland & Wellington limited scheduled transmission on FTA UHF channels at certain hours
Asia/ME/Australia 3760 H / 26000 / 7/8
Europe 11508 V / 22000 / 5/6
Africa/ME 3996 V (analogue signal)
Europe 11680 V / 27500 / 2/3
G-23 (IA 13)
N/Central America 3900 V / 27684 / 3/4
G-25 (IA 5)
North America 11999 H / 20000 / 2/3
Europe/N Africa 12092 V / 27500 / 3/4
Europe 11034 V / 27500 / 3/4
North Africa/ME 12015 V / 27500 / 3/4
SE Asia/Australia 12367 V / 27800 / 3/4
PID: video=1121, audio=1122
Americas 3840 H / 27690 / 7/8
East. Hemisphere 4064 H / 19850 / 7/8
NE Europe 12398 H / 28000 / 7/8
Indonesia Channel 36
Malaysia Channel 513
Indovision Channel 55
Canal Digitaal Channel 64
Canal Digital Channel 57
CanalSat Channel 331
Cyfrowy Polsat Channel 95
Dialog TV Channel 3
Digital+ Channel 79
Digiturk Channel 125
DStv Channel 406
Globecast Channel 463 (FTA)
Sky Digital Channel 514
SKY Italia Channel 522
TPS Channel 330
Eurasia 12139 H / 2222 / 3/4
TV Vlaanderen Channel 54
Buckeye CableSystem Channel 220
Hong Kong Channel 34
Elisa (digital tuner required)
Global Destiny Cable Channel 46
Germany Channel 842
NOOS-UPC Channel 64
Tele Columbus (digital tuner required; channel still listed as Al Jazeera International)
UCS Channel 49
Welho (digital tuner required; subscription)
Ziggo (Netherlands) Channel 511
IPTV over ADSL
Clix SmarTV Channel 97
Club Internet Channel 59
Elion Channel 66
Free Channel 85
HKBN bbTV Channel 735
mio TV Channel 43
Neuf TV Channel 47
now TV Channel 325
Al Jazeera Watch (Free, 56 Kbit/s)
JumpTV Watch (subscription)
Livestation Watch (Free, 502 Kbit/s)
Real Watch (subscription)
Vingo.tv Alpha Watch registration required
YouTube Watch (video segments posted on YouTube by Al Jazeera)
Yalp.alice.it Watch Italy only
Zattoo Watch (where available)
Video On Demand WCAX-3-CBS WVNY-22-ABC WPTZ-5-NBC VPT-33-PBS TBS - Turner Broadcasting System WNNE - NBC WFFF-44-Fox WCFE-57-PBS-NY SRC-6 French (CBFT) CFCF-12-CTV CBMT-6-CBC The Weather Channel Public Access-15-VCAM Edu. Access-16-RETN Government Access-17-CCTV C-SPAN C-SPAN 2 C-SPAN 3 WFFF-CW HSN-Home Shopping Network Shop NBC QVC ESPN U Fox Sports New England ESPN ESPN 2 ESPN Classic ESPN News Fox College Sports Atlantic Fox College Sports Central Fox College Sports Pacific Fox Soccer Channel NESN-New England Sports Network VERSUS (formerly OLN) NESN - 2 (Overflow Programming) Fuel Tennis Channel Speed Channel CBS College Sports Horse Racing TV Golf Channel Outdoor Channel Sportsman Channel FitTV ABC Family USA WPIX-CW Hallmark Disney Toon Disney Family Net TV Land Nickelodeon PAX TV/ Independent Inspirational Life EWTN TBN-Trinity Broadcasting Nick 2 Nick Noggin Nick Gas Nick Toons Boomerang Cartoon Network VPT Create HGTV Food Network Game Show Network History
National Geographic Animal Planet Travel Channel TLC-The Learning Channel Discovery Discovery Health G-4 Video Game Television Military History Channel Crime & Investigations History Channel en Espanol The Science Channel The Military Channel Discovery Kids Planet Green Discovery Times BBC America DIY-Do It Yourself Biography History International A&E-Arts & Entertainment Bravo Ovation Oxygen Lifetime Lifetime Real Women E! Entertainment Comedy Central TNT FX SciFi Spike TV Fox Reality Colours Fine Living American Life TV Soap Net Style SLEUTH Wealth TV CNN Headline News CNN International Bloomberg Fox News MSNBC CNBC Current TV Tru TV Al Jazeera English Fox Business News Turner Classic Movies Fox Movie Channel Lifetime Movie Network CMT-Country Music Television GAC-Great American Country MTV VH1 BET BET on Jazz Chiller Movie Plex Fuse LOGO BET Gospel MTV Espanol MTV 2 MTV Hits MTV Jams VH1 Classic CMT Pure Country VH1 Soul VH Uno HD Net HD Net Movies Wealth TV HD Universal HD Palladia (MTV HD) WCAX 2
WPTZ Weather Plus VPT World CCTV City Hall Live CCTV 4 (Mandarin) (Part of Standard Plus) TVE (Spanish) (Part of Standard Plus) Showtime Too Showcase Showtime Extreme Showtime Beyond Showtime Next Showtime Family Zone Showtime Women The Movie Channel TMC Extra Sundance Flix HBO HBO 2 HBO Signature HBO Family HBO Comedy HBO Zone HBO Latino Cinemax More Max Action Max Thriller Max 5 Star Max Outer Max Women?s Max @Max Starz! Starz! Edge Starz! In Black Starz! Kids & Family Starz! Cinema Starz! Comedy Starz Indie Plex Starz Retro Plex Encore Encore Action! Encore Westerns Encore Westerns Encore WAM!
Cable UW Madison Residential Television Network Channel Lineup Programming supplied by Charter Communications Name WBUW Madison's CW (CW) 57 Janesville WPT2 (Wisconsin Public Television) QVC WMTV (NBC)15 Madison Worldwide Shopping Source WKOW (ABC) 27 Madison WMSN (FOX) 47 Madison WISC (CBS) 3 Madison WHA (Wisconsin Public Television)(PBS) 21 Madison C-SPAN WGN (IND) 9 Chicago My Madison TV My Network TV (14) - Madison Charter Main Street Eternal Word Television Network HSN Home Shopping Network Univision The Golf Channel ESPN2 ESPN ESPN Classic Fox Sports Net Wisconsin Speed Channel Versus Lifetime Spike TV TBS (IND) Atlanta, GA TNT: Turner Network Television A&E: Arts & Entertainment USA Network Oxygen Hallmark Channel CMT Country Music Television Food Network HGTV: Home & Garden Television The Discovery Channel TLC: The Learning Channel The Travel Channel Style The History Channel The Disney Channel Animal Planet Nickelodeon Cartoon Network ABC Family Channel TV Land The SCI-FI Channel National Geographic Channel Comedy Central E! fx Tru TV AMC Turner Classic Movies Bravo CNN Headline News FOX News Channel CNBC MSNBC The Weather Channel Jewelry TV BET: Black Entertainment Television VH-1 Video Hits 1 MTV: Music Television TV2 Big Ten Network (Standard Definition, from Charter) mtvU NTV America (Russian Language) WMSN-DT (FOX) (requires clear QAM tuner) WMTV-DT (NBC) (requires clear QAM tuner) WKOW-DT (ABC) (CBS) (requires clear QAM tuner) WISC-DT (CBS) (requires clear QAM tuner) WHA-DT (PBS & WPT) (requires clear QAM tuner) Big Ten Network HD (requires clear QAM tuner) TV5 (French Language) Research Channel UWTV (University of Washington) ART Arabic Radio and Television (Arabic) RAITALIA (Italian) WYOU Madison Public Access Madison Metro School District/SCOLA Madison Metro School District Madison City 12 Government Access RTN (Russian) C1R (Russian) TV Asia (Hindi, English, Gujarati, other regional languages) TVK (Korea) CCTV-4 (China Central Television -
Mandarin) CCTV-9 (China Central Television - English) Al Jazeera - English coming soon: Deutsche Welle coming soon: TV Japan Big Ten Network Waunakee City (requires clear QAM tuner) Waunakee Schools (requires clear QAM tuner) Mount Horeb Village (requires clear QAM tuner) Mount Horeb Schools (requires clear QAM tuner) WOW (Oregon) (requires clear QAM tuner) More WOW (Oregon) (requires clear QAM tuner) Fitchburg City 2 (requires clear QAM tuner) Fitchburg City 1 (requires clear QAM tuner) FACT (Fitchburg) (requires clear QAM tuner) Middleton (requires clear QAM tuner) VHAT Verona (requires clear QAM tuner) Verona Schools (requires clear QAM tuner) WYOU (requires clear QAM tuner) MMSD Life Learning (requires clear QAM tuner) Madison Schools (requires clear QAM tuner) Madison City Govt