It seems that I am not the only one who is conflicted about the American debut of Al Jazeera network this week.
According to Ad Age, the Qatar-based news channel will have less than six minutes of commercials per hour, compared to nearly three times that amount on other news channels.
Then there is the question of who will carry Al Jazeera.
In the eleventh hour, AT&T dropped Al Jazeera from its lineup, which prompted Al Jazeera to sue. My bet is that the other cable providers are going to wait and see how this turns out before making their own decisions.
Is this a tempest in a teapot, or a pebble in a desert sandstorm?
For those of you who do not remember, Al Jazeera, is the leading voice of the Arab world. It was also the broadcaster of choice for Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists.
I remember this, and I’m pretty sure so does the rest of corporate America.
To change things up, Al Jazeera has launched a substantial publicity campaign with ads that feature typical looking Americans saying it’s time we hear the other side of the story. They are not featuring individuals that may look Arabic or Middle Eastern. One is blonde. I just find this interesting and perhaps a little insulting to the Arabic world. Why don’t they feature a businessman from Qatar, or a woman in a burka? Who is hiding what?
Of course I am all for freedom of speech. I believe in the First Amendment. But I also do not support terrorism or extremism, and I’m wondering where the line is drawn. Because if (and only if) Al Jazeera has ties to extremists that it is able to locate them and receive videos and conduct interviews, then I think this becomes confusing, this line between reporting and protecting.
I am sure that Al Jazeera offers comprehensive journalism—but there is also this confusing history with terrorists.
If there is a question here, then I don’t have the answer. The answers are overrated. I’m just feeling discomfort, along with a good portion of America, and we know that discomfort is the teacher. I am hoping to understand more in the future about the Middle East and America. But I also want to understand the role of Al Jazeera and terrorists in the past.
I want news that gives me the big picture, but if it is going to be the mouthpiece for extremism, it’s going to make me extremely uncomfortable rather than well-informed.
My bet is that AT&T and all those missing corporate advertisers are thinking the same thing.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise