Egyptian Mob Burns Al Jazeera's Cairo Office


In the last two weeks, LinkTV, a San Francisco based satellite channel, turned over half of its programming to Al Jazeera English, expanding the channel's reach on satellite providers DirecTV and DishTV to at least 12 hours per day. But the only way to get the channel on terrestrial television is via small cable providers in Burlington, Vt., Toledo, Ohio, and Washington, D.C.

Al Jazeera English has a campaign on its website and on its Twitter feed tagged #DemandAlJazeera, but it is low key and a linked MeetUp site seems to have only about 100 followers.

Al Jazeera executives believe the decision by the major cable providers not to carry the channel is less about political pressure than about business: cable providers are worried if they offer Al Jazeera English, conservatives might boycott them and take their business elsewhere.

"Clearly there is a marketing challenge. We've got to be known for what we do now, not what people said about us some years ago," said Al Anstey, the managing editor of Al Jazeera English, citing criticisms by Vice President Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld during the Iraq war.

"I think there are myths and misconceptions about what Al Jazeera stands for. And I think that is perhaps underpinned for Al Jazeera English, the challenge we had at the outset, getting -- penetrating -- the American marketplace, getting into cable operators so viewers can see us," Anstey said.

Up until now, Al Jazeera has dedicated far fewer to cover the U.S. than it does to countries in its own region. Some Western employees hired to work for the English channel have quit over editorial disputes, objecting to how management wanted to cover the West.

The core mission to find minority, oppressed, or opposition viewpoints, executives say, remains the same in the West, the Arab world, and everywhere else. Some at Al Jazeera suggest that by promoting their coverage of voices "not normally seen on the mainstream media," the channel is upholding better journalistic standards than their competitors. In part, they are able to do so because of resources: thanks to the Qatari emir's money, the network has 65 bureaus and is growing, while most of the international media is closing bureaus.

But it's the desire to talk to the opposition – even if they are Islamists – that infuriates American conservatives.

"If you stand there in their studio, and you say, 'You know what, Mullah so-and-so, Al Sadr, you're a hater,' you'll get a bullet right in the head," erupted Bill O'Reilly this week on The O'Reilly Factor, the most popular cable show in the United States. "This is an anti-Semitic, anti-American network… There is no counter on it," he continued, yelling. "There's no counter on it!"

Cliff Kincaid, who runs the conservative blog Accuracy in Media, suggested that Al Jazeera was out to topple the Egyptian government.

"It seems clear that there a bias in favor of Muslim brotherhood and terrorist organizations," he said.

A visiting reporter asked Shulie Ghosh, an anchor for Al Jazeera English who has appeared extensively during the Cairo protests, whether Al Jazeera ever takes an opinion in the stories it covers.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...