“The world’s first English language news channel to have its headquarters in the Middle East; covering the world, bridging cultures and setting the news agenda.”
That’s the marketing line of Al Jazeera International (AJI), launched on 15 November 2006.
It’s been slowly building up an audience, which it now claims to be around 90 million households.
But not in the United States of America: it was shut out of most American homes because cable companies have refused to carry their signal.
Elsewhere, commerce – not politics – was at play: some cable operators and hotels, already locked into various deals with the established global news channels of BBC World and CNN International, weren’t easily carrying AJI either.
Well, things are getting more interesting now!
When AJI started less than six months ago, I wrote an op ed published on Both Media Helping Media (UK) and MediaChannel.org (USA). I argued that to make a real difference, AJI needs to not only analyse and present the news differently, but also gather news more ethically in the developing countries of the global South.
I added: “If products of child labour and blood diamonds are no longer internationally acceptable, neither should the world tolerate moving images whose origins are ethically suspect.”
I ended my essay: “We will be watching. And not just what’s shown on AJI, but how those pictures get there.”>
Well, it’s now become easier to follow AJI. I still keep an open mind about their English channel, even if it shows every sign of aping the BBC and CNN. Already we need to look hard to find a real difference.
Let’s give them one year to prove if they mean what they say — or not.