Plural Perspectives

Plural Perspectives
Plurality promotes and powers Perspectives

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Voices Grow for Wider Access to Alternate News Sources

A number of editorial commentators, journalism academics and media professionals are publicly voicing their disappointment over the limited access to alternate news channels for American viewers to chose from. Given below are views from a cross-section of media commentaries, newspaper articles/editorial, and comments on internet sites and blogs.

A recent trends analysis of German media, reveals that Al-Jazeera English is now one of the most quoted international media outlets in Germany — “far ahead of CNN and neck-and-neck with the Washington Post,” says Roland Schatz, CEO of the Media Tenor, adding that the Arab media is becoming increasingly influential, largely due to the advent of the Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera, which started an English-language version, from 15 November 2006. When asked if Al-Jazeera English will eventually become a major force in the TV news industry, Schatz responded: ‘‘Knowing about their ambitions and their cash resources, and knowing that they took a lot of BBC journalists, I would say, yes’‘. ‘‘Do you think it will take a couple of years?’‘ the journalist asked ‘‘I would say less,’‘ Schatz said. Media Tenor is the leading media institute in the field of applied agenda-setting research. The company’s detailed analysis of news reports provides insight to major corporations and government agencies, such as the U.S. State Department.

At a conference, "Creating Connections: New Partnerships for Understanding in the Middle East," sponsored by the Vermont Peace Academy, Vermont Council on World Affairs and Norwich University. A participant said: "It's an intellectual tragedy that the United States has cut itself out of Al Jazeera English's contribution to [informative] conversation. Everything that's happened to us in Iraq shows that's very dangerous. The lesson of Iraq is: Ignorance kills."

There is a noteworthy article in Asheville Citizen-Times by Joy Franklin which refers about those who manipulate opinions about imaginary risks if access to alternate media widens in the USA. The author wonders why negative perceptions are spread about the channels by mostly those who never watch it in the first place? “It’s because some of them are afraid to alienate their base of customers because of the negative publicity that the U.S. administration has been trying to portray Al-Jazeera in since Sept. 11” writes Franklin quoting a Queens University journalism scholar, and adds: "In other words, the administration’s negative portrayal of Al-Jazeera has created an indirect censorship, a subtle kind of government control over the flow of information to the American public. We should be furious." See full text of the aticle entitled, "An American hallmark is free flow of information; let’s fight attempts to quash it.on free expression" at:

It is pertinent to heed to what top defence officials who have served as key positions till recently have to say about the US media. In General Ricardo S. Sanchez's observation, the four years of American media's coverage of the Iraq war continues to be problematic due to a near lack (if not total absence) of accountability.

Had American tax payers an easy access to alternate information sources it wouldn’t have taken them four years to question the wisdom of the “cakewalk” bunch i.e. the likes of Ken Adelmen who misled the American media by claiming “measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America’s war on terrorism.”

Thus encouraging and embracing alternate sources of media has become increasingly important at a time when many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of overstepping their boundaries. An Italian scholar of the Arab media, Donatella della Ratta rightly suggests that the West should seriously consider before blaming or blocking channels like Aljazeera that are in fact educating tools to inform rather than a medium providing an embedded version from a warring side. Her analysis is a wake-up call for those who believe that pouring $62 million on Al-Hurra can make the US image right in the Middle-East. For a fraction of such amount spent on facilitating wider access to alternate sources like Aljazeera English help American view the actual realities faced on ground from diverse sources not ocassionally but round the clock.

It is also worth to see Delinda C. Hanley’s article “Al Jazeera English: The Brave New Channel They Don’t Want You to See” in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, October 2007

While many look at distinctions the channel has achieved in a short span, others seek way to dismiss and deny wider access and acceptability to it. The strongest criticism about the heads-in-sand policy has been voiced by someone who, in his 25-plus year journalistic career, has worked for United Press International Radio, the Associated Press Radio Network, US Radio Network, CBS Radio News, and NBC News Radio. Read Brad Gibson’ article “Stupidity Robs U.S. of Good, Fair Journalism” at

An ever increasing number of comments, reviews, feedback and opinion pieces in print, electronic and cyber media of what American viewers are missing out in terms of content richness, analytical depth and topics covered by Al Jazeera may be judged from the responses posted at
to Roger Cohen's article suggesting: Let’s face the new “core facts” which appeared in the New York Times and International Herald Tribune.

As Aljazeera English marks its 1st Anniversary on 15 November 2007, it is adored by many but abhorred by others. In terms of size and budget with CNN and Fox News, many call Aljazeera a 'little matchbox' but, when it comes to richness of representation, diversity of opinion and plurality of views AJE appears well prepared to take on the corporate news media on its merits. According to author and former executive of USIA, Alvin Snyder, it's a shame AJE isn't being given the chance to compete in the US marketplace. Writing more than two-years ago Snyder anticipated that AJ would be giving Fox, CNN and the others "a run for their money" in America, based on the popularity of its website in the US. This would have taken place if it was given a level playing field to perform and demonstrate its merits and demerits.