Only English Gaza News Shut Out of U.S. Cable

Even though “Al Jazeera English is also on the cusp of a carriage deal in Canada,” Broadcasting & Cable‘s Marisa Guthrie reports (2/18/09) that the channel has “had little luck getting picked up by U.S. cable and satellite providers.” As part of an effort to “appeal to consumers via a grassroots marketing campaign that attempts to dispel long-held attitudes about the network,” AJE has “launched a website that bluntly addresses popular perceptions about the English language offshoot of Al Jazeera, the most-watched news network in the Middle East”:

The site, IWantAJE.net, lets consumers send electronic letters directly to their cable or satellite provider demanding the channel. It also includes a “Speak Out” forum and a “Hits & Myths” page debunking popular assertions, such as: “Al Jazeera Supports Terrorism,” “Al Jazeera Is Anti-Semitic,” “Al Jazeera Is Anti-American” and “Al Jazeera Shows Beheadings.”…

AJE filled a news vacuum during the recent war in Gaza, when Israelâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s decision to ban foreign journalists from the region arguably gave Al Jazeera English a priceless amount of exposure. As the only English-language news organization with a presence in Gaza, its reports and video were widely seen on television sets in the U.S. and Canada. PBS‘s World Focus aired full segments. And other networks, including NBC News and the CBC, aired video from Al Jazeera English.

Indeed, “traffic on the networkâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s website… spiked by 600 percent during the war in Gaza.” Contrast the fact that “more than half of that traffic came from North America” with current accessibility: “AJE is available in 130 million households internationally but is only carried in the U.S. in Burlington, Vt.; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington, D.C.”

Listen to the FAIR radio program CounterSpin: “Ken Picard on Al-Jazeera in Burlington” (6/6/08)