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Can Al Jazeera English turn coverage of Middle East unrest into access across America?



al_jazeera_english_live_free_stream.jpgEven if your cable TV provider doesn't carry Al Jazeera English, it's possible you have already seen their coverage of protests in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and elsewhere.

That's because U.S. TV news outlets have often broadcast pictures and reports from the channel, which offers English-language news coverage from the Arab-centered newschannel.

Now comes news that AJE, which is not carried on many U.S. cable systems, is pushing American cable companies to carry their channel, backed by increasing interest in the instability of regimes in the Middle East and Al Jazeera's widespread reporting resources in those countries.

According to an AJE release: "The managing director of Al Jazeera English, Al Anstey, has arrived in the US for talks with cable operators about adding AJE to their platforms. The meetings begin today in New York with Comcast.

The summits follow a surge of interest in Al Jazeera English due to its coverage of the Egyptian revolution.

There was a 2,500% increase in visitors to the AJE website, half of which came from the US. Tens of thousands of people have so far sent emails demanding Al Jazeera to their cable and satellite providers via the AJE website[1]. Grassroots activists have also held meetups across the US to organize the campaign.

On arriving in the US, Al Anstey commented: “We’re very grateful for all the support and appreciation we’ve been receiving. Clearly the demand is there for Al Jazeera and people want to see us on their screens.” End of press release.

aljazeeraenglish.jpgMy pal Aaron Barnhart in Kansas City has been a longstanding advocate for adding AJE to American cable systems, noting that many of the channels cable companies carry are offshoots from powerful conglomerates without much viewership. Surely the third iteration of ESPN or the fifth Discovery Channel platform could be dropped in favor of a newschannel on the cutting edge of covering the Arab world?

That's a question U.S. cable companies seem to be considering as Libya grows more unstable and calls for revolution spread across the Middle East.

AJE has an area on its website encouraging fans to demand their area cable companies carry the outlet, which has often been criticized in America for passing along videos from Al Qaeda and producing stories critical of U.S. military efforts in the Middle East.

One open question: Will adding AJE to U.S. cable systems deflate American opposition to the channel or increase it?

For a look at AJE, click here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 1:39pm]


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