Plural Perspectives

Plural Perspectives
Plurality promotes and powers Perspectives

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Pitting Prejudiced Perceptions with Professional Perspectives?

Rebuffed by two city committees, an interest group that wants to get Al-Jazeera English off the city's cable television system is seeking to put the matter to voters in a referendum. The Defenders Council of Vermont (DCV), says it is working with some Burlington residents to get enough signatures on a petition to get the matter on the ballot for the November election.

The recommedation by two advisory committees in Vermont State, USA that Al Jazeera news channel should continue to be offered on Burlington Telecom cable is not unusal but in line with how professional bodies elsewhere reflect on the merits and demerits of this news channel serving as an alternate source on global developments. The Citizens Advisory committee established by the Vermont Public Service Board and the Telecom Advisory Committee created by the Burlington City Council pondered if having Al Jazeera English brings any value to Burlington viewers. The timing of their deliberations coincided with that of the juries at two presigious media awards who recently looked at AJE's professional credentials.Al Jazeera English has excelled at the 17th Amnesty International UK Media Awards announced in London on 17th June . The awards recognise excellence in human rights reporting and acknowledge journalism's significant contribution to the UK public's awareness and understanding of human rights issues.

It may be recalled that on 10th June 2008, the award for “Best 24 Hour News Program” at the 48th Monte Carlo Television Festival conferred upon Al Jazeera English is not an aberration, but, one in a series of accomplishments scored by a news channel launched only in November 2006. The award recognized Al Jazeera English’s “extensive international reach and efforts to dig deeper to give its international audience a richer understanding of the events that affect their lives.”

The Defenders Council of Vermont has tasked itself to educate Vermont's citizens about the nature, reality of threats facing the United States. The DCV now calls for a referendum over what news channels should be available in Burlington. One wonders how all this fits with the learned and informed assessment of those who practice and profess media backed by decades of knowledge and experience.

For those who refuse to red between the lines here are some excerpts that may serve as eye openers should they sincerely wish to know how some well-informed and learned American professionals have recently evaluated the quality of what the US viewers are being offered: As major US television networks shy away from a candid coverage of the Middel East, increased access to alternate providers will help raise competition & accountability. CBS’ chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan who appeared on “The Daily Show” recently voiced a few candid observations about broadcast coverage of Iraq becoming increasingly scarce in U.S. media, which the NYT picked up in a story on 23 June 2008. “If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts,” she added.

Another recently published book that truly reveals how the culture of professional journalistic lapses, manipulation, "embedded" reporters, and the outright lies and mendacity by the neo-con media handlers, has built a vast institutional apparatus that is still fully in power, and still dangerous and destructive. Greg Mitchell, the author of "So Wrong For So Long", lists the failures of the media and journalism to hold the political establishment accountable and hence, placing the vitality of democracy at risk.

Eric Boehlert author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush" is aghast at how the mainstream media -- through the collusion of its big multi-billion dollar corporate parents -- has joined the military-industrial complex in an ongoing effort to prop up a failed administration, guilty of illegalities, deception, fraud, negligence and gross failure.

It is increasingly feared that modern politics and media overload mean excellent sources of information are swallowed in a fog most Americans ignore or into which they refuse to peer. Writers like Larry Beinhart author of Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin" having been pointing out how television news is the primary fog machine that leaps over the big facts that are essential to the functioning of democracy to get to a story about a runaway bride.

Instead of referring to it as "a threat", DCV's should explore if access to channels like Al Jazeera could provide objective coverage of critical foreign policy and security issues, while many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of not to over step their boundaries. Armed with diverse news sources, the American people can crosscheck and verify the government's position to rid themselves of half-truths from the corporate media, which remains a willing accomplice in keeping American viewers continually subjected to what former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan calls "Washington's Culture of Deception."

It seems that the right of US viewers’ majority to have alternate news channels is being objected to by a handful but noisy few. Interestingly, many of such vocal elements possess no expertise either about the society in the Middle East its media, or the regional discourse on issues existing there.

Why some elements insist that Burlington need not get diverse news sources, is it because they have blind faith in whatever is doled out by corporate media or because some need to hide from the whole truth? Is it by mere chance that a campaign is pursued to deny the American viewers getting the other side of the story that usually doesn't make it on US media since many of whom are either co-opted by corporations and/or corruption?

One would expect media activists to ask the major US channels draw adequate attention to matters that are of vital concern for American lives. But many are found silent on most occasions. Others are observed busy to attract attention on irrelevant and insignificant issues.

Who, then, will lobby for the American people's right to get the fullest and clearest picture of the way American wealth and treasured lives are committed abroad?

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