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  • Sylvia Moore 1:09 pm on February 4, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: AJE, , , Arab, Arabic, , BBC World News, , , cable companies, , , , , foreign, , international, , , , , , , , United States, ,   

    I Want My A-J-E (Al Jazeera English)! 

    If you want the best, most comprehensive coverage of the uprising in Egypt, Al Jazeera English (AJE) is the place to tune in. The images and reporting have been nothing short of riveting. But most people in the United States, including here in Los Angeles, have no access to the channel on their cable systems. Instead, if you have Internet access, you can view AJE online through its live video stream. Thank goodness for that. As a result, the news channel has seen a 2,500% increase in traffic to its web site this week — 60% of that from the U.S., according to Tony Burman, Al Jazeera’s chief strategic adviser for the Americas. Clearly, many Americans want more in depth information about Eygpt’s revolution than the shallow and sensationalistic U.S. media provide.

    Launched in 2006, AJE is the English language counterpart to Al Jazeera, the Doha, Qatar-based, Arabic-language news channel immensely popular around the Arab world. Unfortunately, Al Jazeera has had a bad reputation in the U.S., where it’s known mainly as the channel where Osama bin Laden liked to showcase his greatest hits. During the Bush years, administration officials and conservatives accused Al Jazeera of being anti-American. And Israel supporters aren’t big fans of the channel, which typically gives a lot more attention to the suffering of the Palestinians. Outside the U.S., Al Jazeera gets a better reception, and is known as a hard-hitting independent network that’s not afraid to cast an unflattering light on autocratic dictators. For example, in Egypt, the regime has kicked the network out of the country, arrested its journalists, and banned it from the airwaves there.

    AJE is seen in more than 100 countries, including Canada and yes, Israel. But AJE is only available on cable stations in Washington D.C., Toledo, Ohio, and Burlington,Vermont, of all places. I have Time Warner digital, and I saw that one of the KCET digital channels – KCETM 239 – is supposed to carry a half-hour of AJE on weeknights. But when I actually checked last night, strangely, an Asian soap opera was running in the time slot. Anyway, I’ll go back to watching as much of AJE as I want on my computer desktop. But it would still be nice to be able to watch it on the TV while lying on my couch in the den or eating a snack in the kitchen.

    So why the near blackout in the U.S.? Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim writes that there are political and commercial reasons, and he points to an illuminating essay from a former AJE  associate producer, Paige Austin. Below is a video from Democracy Now! this week about the media blackout of AJE in the U.S. and of Al Jazeera in Egypt:

    I’ve watched AJE occasionally for about two years. Being the news junkie that I am, and dissatisfied with the quality and dearth of international news in the American media, I was excited when I first learned of AJE’s existence. Initially, you could only get selected videos on YouTube. Later, AJE’s streaming video became available through a site called LiveStation, which has several international news channels, including BBC World Service (audio only), Deutsche Welle (audio only), RFI, Russia Today and France 24. I only discovered this week that AJE now streams directly from its web site. All of these streams are free.

    Seeing how the news is reported outside of the American (or even Western) prism is refreshing and revealing. Instead of an over-reliance on a couple of pundits carping at each other in a two-sided debate, you’re likely to see more academics, representatives from non-governmental organizations, human rights activists and regular people from the street give their views on issues of the day. While watching the coverage of the Egyptian protests, I heard analysis from several Middle Eastern experts, a human rights activist who was jailed by the regime, a blogger, several protesters and a U.S. congressman I’d never seen on American TV before.

    Al Jazeera executives are actively trying to get American cable companies to offer AJE, and they are using the Internet stats to bolster their case. It’s probably still going to be an uphill battle, just because of all the ignorance and prejudice against anything that isn’t American, especially if it comes from the Arab world. BBC World News, the BBC’s international channel, also isn’t widely available in the U.S. Its only Los Angeles presence is a few half-hour segments on local public television and a four-hour block on the cable channel, BBC America.

    BBC America, a channel specifically created for the U.S. market, shows re-runs of popular U.K. programs (Los Angeles stations: Time Warner Cable Channel 131, AT&T U-verse Channel 188, DIRECT TV Channel 264, and DISH Network Channels 135 and 879). It only has three hours of BBC World News, which unfortunately, airs very early in the morning. On weeknights, however, the channel airs a one-hour news show tailored to the American audience called BBC World News America. This program broadcasts from Washington D.C. and reports on domestic American news, often times from an angle you rarely see on American television. For example, I found the channel’s coverage on the financial crisis from the point of view of ordinary Americans particularly good. BBC World News America is also a good supplement to the lack of comprehensive international news on American media. If you don’t have cable, you can watch BBC World News America videos on its web site.

    If I have one beef about BBC World News America, it’s that the show’s anchors interview some of the same American media pundits and Beltway lawmakers who have no fresh ideas, and whom I wanted to get away from in the first place. Also, I wish the anchors would get a lot tougher with their questioning, especially when Congressperson So-and-So is playing fast and loose with the truth. I find that AJE anchors tend to be a bit more challenging, especially with American government officials and lawmakers.

    A few years ago, I signed a petition BBC World News circulated to get its channel into more American homes – including Los Angeles – but it looks like that effort went nowhere. So regrettably, most Americans are stuck with the provincial and mind-numbing American news media, that do their best to shield the public from much of what’s really going on in the rest of the world, and from the uncomfortable truths about their own country. I find it quite interesting that it’s just fine for the Beltway politicians to watch AJE on their TV sets, but most of their constituents can’t be exposed to such alternative views. Contrary to conventional wisdom, I believe most Americans do care about international news and want a diversity of viewpoints if given the opportunity. What are they really afraid of if AJE, or even BBC or another foreign news service were widely available in the U.S.? That Americans just might form opinions contrary to what the ruling Washington and corporate elites want them to think? The best the public can do at this point is to keep putting the pressure on their cable companies. One can hope that AJE’s new-found publicity and popularity among Americans will cause the cable companies to cave.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 3:16 pm on November 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: connection, , , , speed, United States,   

    Middling Internet Speed in the Country That Invented the Internet 

    When it comes to average Internet connection speeds, the United States is, well…average. According to a new survey by Akamai Technologies, and reported on the Royal Pingdom blog, the U.S. ranks 12th in Internet speed, behind such countries as Canada, the Czech Republic, Japan and even Romania. The survey ranks the top 50 countries with the most Internet users.

    Although the U.S. ranks second in number of users overall (behind #1 China), the country has an average speed of 4.60 megabits per second. South Korea is the overall speed champion, with an average speed of 16.63 megabits per second, but ranking eleventh in number of users. America’s middling speed ranking is rather embarrassing for the country that invented the Internet, and thinks of itself as exceptional in just about everything. Improving Internet connection speed is important if we want to continue to innovate as a country. Hopefully, now that the Federal Communications Commission has completed its national broadband plan earlier this year, America can concentrate on catching up.

     
  • Sylvia Moore 6:00 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ACORN, , AP, Associated Press, Bloomberg, , corporate media, correspondent, CREDO, Credo Action, , , Helen Thomas, , , , , MoveOn, , , , , Shirley Sherrod, United States, Van Jones, , White House Correspondents Association, White House press corps   

    The White House Press Corps Board Just Doesn’t Get It 

    When word leaked out that FOX News was competing for the coveted front-row center seat in the White House briefing room formerly occupied by the legendary Helen Thomas, liberal activists created an uproar. MoveOn.org and CREDO Action launched a petition drive to stop the White House Correspondents Association board from giving the seat to FOX, and instead award it to NPR, who was also vying for the seat along with Bloomberg News.

    The petition drive was successful – sort of. Although the board eventually awarded the center seat on Sunday to the Associated Press, FOX still got promoted from its second-row place up to the AP’s former front row seat. NPR got moved up to FOX’s old seat. (Thomas abruptly retired after 50 years as a White House correspondent when footage of some rather unfortunate comments she made about Israel surfaced on the Web.)

    MoveOn and CREDO hailed the decision by the association’s board to deny FOX the center seat, but the fact that this nakedly right-wing propaganda outfit masquerading as a news channel now gets to sit in the front row is still an embarrassment. FOX shouldn’t be in the room, let alone have the same honor bestowed on it as truly legitimate news organizations. Their presence makes a mockery of the White House press corps.

    But then again, I’ve thought for a long time now that the White House press corps had turned from an institution of respectable and hard-nosed reporters digging for truth (like in Helen Thomas’ heyday) to a club of overpaid prima-donnas obsessed with catching the president in an embarrassing soundbite when they’re not at the next minute getting cozy with Beltway officials to preserve their precious “access.” Thomas was the last – and perhaps, the greatest – of her kind of Washington correspondent, a holdover from the days when the news media did speak truth to power, and when reporters didn’t bend over backwards to appease corporate overlords concerned with quarterly profits rather than informing the public.

    What really got my blood boiling was a comment attributed to a press corps board member when the petition drive was launched. This member criticized the advocacy groups for “smearing” FOX’s reporters and producers, who she said are “some of the best and well-respected in the business.” But “smearing” is what this channel does to other people 24/7 – particularly to those who don’t follow the conservative political agenda. Shirley Sherrod. Van Jones. ACORN. Those are just the most recent casualties of FOX’s journalistic transgressions. And, why would such good reporters work at a place so obviously beneath their talents? Oh, I guess if you dangle enough money in someone’s face, principles can be easily compromised.

    The association’s board stated that it was giving FOX the front row seat as a recognition of the channel’s “length of service and commitment.” Commitment to what? Commitment to spreading lies about everything from why America is in such a financial mess to those phantom Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction?” Commitment to vile race-baiting, misinformation and crude political discourse? And why is it that one gaffe costs Helen Thomas her career, but when FOX constantly engages in irresponsible behavior it gets rewarded? Why does the White House Correspondents Association board now have such low standards?

    I’ve got my issues with NPR, which is more corporate these days because Congress won’t properly fund it. But NPR’s status as a long standing public broadcaster should’ve taken precedence over FOX. NPR should be sitting beside the AP in the front row. I cannot understand why so many in the American journalism establishment keep defending FOX. This is precisely the wrong image of American media culture we are sending to the rest of the world. FOX should be treated like the television version of a supermarket tabloid – ignored and marginalized. This suck up to a propaganda outfit just makes old media look more and more irrelevant. I’d like to have the White House press corps be filled entirely with independent and foreign journalists who know how to ask tough and intelligent questions rather than the gotcha drivel with which some of the American mainstream Washington correspondents waste the viewing audience’s time.

     
    • Crystal 9:17 pm on August 8, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Well said. I had the pleasure of meeting a friend of a friend last week who travels occasionally to Europe. She and I discussed the difference in quality of American “news” programs versus European. What passes for television news is an embarrassment to this country. The problem is that most Americans would never consider that ours is not the best and so they’ll never watch or read any foreign press to realize just how bizarre ours is – particularly Fox. The dumbing down in this country is frightening.

      • Sylvia Moore 6:02 pm on August 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks. I really wish we could get the 24 hour BBC News Channel here. CNN International is also supposed to be superior to CNN America.

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