As Al Jazeera English wins a DuPont award, I ask: Why isn't it on more U.S. cable systems?
Al Jazeera English is celebrating a major milestone; the newschannel was among 15 recipients announced for the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism's Alfred I. DuPont Award, one of the most prestigious honors in broadcast journalism.
The award, the first in the channel's five-year history, was bestowed for Al Jazeera English's coverage of the continuing crisis in Haiti on its current affairs show Fault Lines, through the documentary Haiti: Six Months On.
According to AJE: "Haiti: Six Months On aired in July of 2010 and takes a stark look at the recovery effort in Haiti after the earthquake. Correspondent Sebastian Walker arrived in Haiti just one day after the earthquake struck, and stayed on to document the progress of the relief effort, long after international media moved on to the next global story. Fault Lines, Al Jazeera English’s flagship U.S. affairs show, produced a special 6 month progress report to examine how the international aid effort exposed the deepening chasms between the poor majority and the foreign organizations working on relief and governance in the country."
But the viewership figures announced by the channel in conjunction with the award tell an unfortunate story.
Though the channel boasts of an audience of 250 million in 130 countries, just 5-million U.S. homes have access to AJE through cable systems in select cities, including Washington DC, New York, Burlington, Toledo, Chicago and Los Angeles.
According to a release from the channel, "Al Jazeera English has bureaus in Washington DC, New York, Los Angeles and Miami and will open a bureau in Chicago in January of 2012. 40% of (the channel's) website traffic comes from the United States."
Which means many American news consumers are doing what I've been doing since before the Arab Spring popular uprisings in Egypt earlier this year, watching AJE's coverage online.
Time for U.S. cable systems to stop bowing to pressure from those who don't understand and include AJE in American channel lineups. AJE even has an online petition asking fans to send email letters to cable systems demanding their inclusion.
A nation which stands for freedom, diversity and open minds can do no less.
See the documentary below: