Al Jazeera set to launch English language service
November 12, 2001 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Al Jazeera set to launch English language service Is that some late November 5th fireworks I can hear? No, the sound of Bush and Blair exploding with indignation.
posted by Summer (14 comments total)
The station, which is the only broadcaster to have beamed lived transmissions from behind Taliban lines in Afghanistan, has seen its international profile soar since the September 11 attacks on the US.

Good post, Summer...hmmm. I'm going to stick my neck out here. Al-Jazeera is being praised and courted because it has/is a monopoly. The moment the Afghan campaign is over it'll be summarily dumped and forgotten. Lest we forget what a crap, ideologically biased TV station it is. So I guess, heh, it'll all end in tears before bedtime. And serves them right, I say.

In a year's time they'll be just as important and well-regarded as ertswhile Baghdad TV or Milosevic's wife's TV station in Belgrade are now. And even now I suspect that most people, even with an English language version, won't trust them; never mind itch to tune in. And, anyway, hawks will just use it to gloat over the destruction they've caused.
So I wouldn't expect Bush and Blair to explode with indignation just yet. Now gas ... that's altogether a more interesting proposition.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:17 AM on November 12, 2001

Amen to MiguelCardoso. Anyone who expects Al Jazeera to become the next CNN is deluding themselves.
posted by darren at 7:43 AM on November 12, 2001

No al-Jazeera on cable TV here in Seattle, so I can't speak to its journalistic and/or propagandistic nature. Michael Moran, senior producer for special projects at, worked as the BBC’s U.S. affairs analyst in London from 1993-96. His recent article "In defense of al-Jazeera" includes this:

It is the lone Arabic broadcast outlet to put truth and objectivity above even its survival. For its pains during the five years of its existence, it has been attacked by virtually every government in the Middle East. The network’s bureaus around the region are periodically closed because of al-Jazeera’s insistence in airing stories about the corruption of government officials in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and elsewhere. Israeli officials and journalists, all but banned from other Middle Eastern networks, are staples on al-Jazeera, whose motto is “We get both sides of the story.”

posted by Carol Anne at 8:11 AM on November 12, 2001

Miguel, I'll respectfully disagree completely. I have lived in the Middle East and I can tell you that Al Jazeera is one of the best things on over there, it is precisely the opposite of Iraqi State Television and has actually drawn censure from almost all the Middle Eastern governments. Coming from them, this is surely a compliment. To compare it to such state aparati is therefor not only incorrect, but ironic.

They are not steeped in ideology any more than CNN in that they cater to their audience, which is as large as the United States. It is a real alternative to all the other media outlets in the area and their journalists are very committed to getting the story and question the governments of the region as much as they can. The production quality is first rate, the female reporters are good looking, and overall, for all the criticism it makes of the West, it is clearly inspired by both freedom and high production values of the Western media.

As far as it never being the next CNN, too late, it already is. Just not for you.
posted by cell divide at 9:18 AM on November 12, 2001

“We get both sides of the story.”

Well, that also seems to be the case here. Thanks, Carol Anne and cell divide; I've certainly become less one-sided since I read your posts. We do get large doses of al-Jazeera here in Europe and my impression is not at all good. But I am Jewish and very pro-Western so I guess "Just not for you" just about covers it, though I sincerely doubt it will ever be the new CNN or that it goes out of its way to get the Israeli viewpoint.
The fact that it even features Israelis is noteworthy in the Arab world, sure, but that sounds a lot like the old "some of my best friends are gay/black/Muslims"argument and not too much like proper pluralistic, anything-goes-as-long-as-it-happened , by-the-book, hard journalism.
The MSNBC comment, also impressive, is quite convincing; if a little patronizing. As I said, al-Jazeera is Western broadcasters' only source - they have to pat them a little on the back. I do agree, cell divide, in a philosophical sense, that They are not steeped in ideology any more than CNN but they cater to an audience which is not as critical or democratic - not to mention competitive - as CNN's. To say the least...
Thanks again. I love MetaFilter; it slowly keeps changing my mind about everything! :-)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:39 AM on November 12, 2001

, the sound of Bush and Blair exploding with indignation.

I cannot help but say that this is one of the most sophomoric comments I have read on Mefi in weeks.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:49 AM on November 12, 2001

Well, the Freepers are trying to get it known by the label "Terrorist TV", but as cell divide points out, that's hardly an accurate portrayal.

The history of al-Jazeera is instructive. The BBC had created an Arabic satellite news service based in Saudi Arabia (and, naturally, running on a satellite channel closely connected to the royal family), but the Saudis did not like the BBC's insistence on editorial independence, cutting off its feed after they chose to broadcast footage of a Saudi beheading. (Yes, these guys are our friends.) The Emir of Qatar (a young man who overthrew his father in order to institute a more modern, Western government, by Gulf standards) established al-Jazeera using some of the assets and most of the staff of the former BBC Arabic News Service, and quickly it turned into a CNN imitator, with shows resembling Crossfire and political call-in shows. Compared with the stultifying programming on the state-controlled TV of most Middle Eastern countries, it was a revelation of free speech.

Read up on how al-Jazeera coverage regularly shakes the political landscape in countries across the Mideast (except, perhaps, Qatar). Most of these governments are simply not used to a local-language media that they don't control.

Note that the coalition was slow to get up to speed but they have become aware of al-Jazeera's importance in shaping public opinion in the region. US administration officials from Rumsfeld to Rice have all sat for interviews in the last month or so.
posted by dhartung at 3:15 PM on November 12, 2001

Op-Ed piece from the NY Times that references the 'Al Jazeera debate.'
posted by cell divide at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2001

"Come on down and make a deal at Al Jazeera Ford"
posted by quonsar at 9:41 PM on November 12, 2001

According to The Times of India, they ain't gonna be using their Kabul office anytime soon. A US warplane has done away with it. Via Ethel the Blog.
posted by mmarcos at 8:06 AM on November 13, 2001

"One of the buildings targeted was the office of the Qatari-based satellite television channel, Al-Jazeera, which has broadcast video-taped messages from alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden and his deputies since the September 11 atrocities in New York and Washington." [Times of India]

Condoleeza Rice is smiling.
posted by Carol Anne at 11:43 AM on November 13, 2001

Here's the BBC account.
posted by ferris at 12:56 PM on November 13, 2001

Gosh my belief in US credibility hasn't been dimmed one bit. I know this missile strike was just an accident. I know the US military machine doesn't want to silence any media that might embarass them or refuse to toe the line.
posted by omar at 6:19 AM on November 14, 2001

The broadcasts of OBL weren't "transmitted" from Kabul. Still, this is an emotionally satisfying mistake.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:29 AM on November 14, 2001

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