Al Jazeera America (AJAM) was launched on August 20th, and definitely not without some controversy. As the network is owned and operated by the same family that owns its sister station, Al Jazeera, people have naturally been a little suspicious of the network’s motives. They are both owned by a member of the royal family of Qatar, who has been known to have ties to funding Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in the past. The network was also condemned by the United States government for broadcasting videos from Osama bin Laden, along with other pro-terrorist propaganda.
AJAM is the second foray of Al Jazeera into American television, this time buying Al Gore’s Current TV in an attempt to reach a wider audience in the United States. Originally they had planned to broadcast 60% of their programming from the United States, while 40% of the programming would be from the Qatar based Al Jazeera English, but the New York Times has reported that AJAM is now planning to have 100% of its material come from the United States.
In an effort to avoid backlash from Washington, AJAM has secured a number of lobbyists to try to pacify concerns many politicians have with the network’s possible content. Former Delaware Representative, Mike Castle, is amongst those lobbyists. In a rather biased News Journal piece, the paper discussed what they considered to be the odd pairing of Al Jazeera and Castle, with Castle attempting to explain why he is working with the network.
Castle helped pacify any in Congress who may have been tempted to hit the outrage button and decry the TV network that, in its home region, was the broadcast outlet for Osama bin Laden’s taped dispatches.
“I was brought into it in terms of talking to and making contacts with some of the offices on the hill, and talking to them or their staffs about what [Al Jazeera is] doing and how they’re going to operate,” Castle said.
Castle said it will be up to Al Jazeera America to prove its commitment to high journalistic standards. Though Castle said he knows of no “master plan” for further Al Jazeera lobbying efforts, DLA Piper is still on retainer.
-Excerpts from News Journal piece “Al Jazeera Gets Help from Castle”
Some pundits and politicians have come out against AJAM as you’d expect, particularly Glenn Beck who believes that the network is going to serve nothing but anti-American propaganda, and Republican Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor who had this to say about Al Gore and Mike Castle:
Who is more despicable? (A) Al Gore for selling Current TV to Al Jazeera (B) former Rep. Mike Castle for lobbying for Al Jazeera or (C) Both
— Kieran Michael Lalor (@KieranLalor) August 31, 2013
Mr. Assemblyman, I’m actually going to have to answer (D) None of the above. The only “despicable” thing going on here is the attempt at shaming people for actively participating in freedom of the press, as well as an overt stab at trying to shutdown the free marketplace of ideas. Al Jazeera America has brought on numerous employees from other news outlets such as Frontline, Time Magazine, and CNN in an effort to solidify that they are an American news outlet for American audiences. Thus far AJAM has conducted themselves in what many would consider to be a refreshingly neutral manner, reporting the news without the bias that many media outlets like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News clearly show on a day to day basis.
I can only wonder if all this uproar over AJAM is because unlike the other outlets, Al Jazeera may actually produce real news. Thus far the network has drawn pathetic ratings, and I fear that may be because American audiences tend to favor more polished, sensationalistic approaches to journalism. I’m just grateful for now that we have another point of view to choose from.
- Al Jazeera America Enters US Market: Will It Be Viable? (globalriskinsights.com)
- Al Jazeera America undeterred by low ratings (bizjournals.com)
- A New News Source (dkrotz.wordpress.com)