Can the U.S. really find no ‘niche’ for Al Jazeera?!

Israel/Palestine
on 38 Comments

This morning, NPR’s Morning Edition did a program on Al Jazeera, focusing on Arab governmental efforts to keep Arabs from watching the channel by blocking its signal by various means. Reporter Deborah Amos chronicles the disruptive efforts and the cat-and-mouse game between the network and Arab autocrats trying to block the channel.

In America, it’s much easier. No need for the government to do more than whisper, and the cable operators make sure themselves the network is unavailable. Amos says the network was “shut out of the market by reluctant cable operators” after the Bush administration called it “anti-American.” No hi tech attacks on a satellite signals were necessary.

Given its huge and noted role in reporting the Egyptian revolution, Al Jazeera English is bidding once again to enter the American TV market. But it’s tough sledding.

Take for instance Comcast, the country’s largest cable operator. Marketwatch carried a story today which says that “with hundreds of channels, including many in high definition, Comcast has limited bandwidth to devote to new channels, making a new channel difficult to justify, especially if it’s perceived as a ‘niche’ service.”

I’m trying to sympathize with Comcast; what a shame if they had drop programs from one of their pre-existing channels to carry “niche” programming from the Middle East. For example, looking at the Comcast roster this afternoon, I see that there are five college hockey channels, a jewelry channel, three slots for the NFL channel (now showing the scouting combine) and about 150 channels mostly showing bad movies. And then of course this important niche: Channel 501, “Totally Nude Army Wives Alone” and on 502 there is “Hot Pink and Tight Booty Girls” and on there is 544 “Badass!” and on 545 there is “Wet Thighs Spread Wide 6” and on 546 there is “Girl on Girl 14” and on 547 there is “First Time Porn Audition” and on 548 “Real Couples Do Porn” and on 549 “18 Year Old Facial.” Not to mention, for those with more particular “niche” tastes, two more channels devoted to “Adult on Demand.”

But it’s a free enterprise system, and Comcast may not have enough “bandwidth” for a “niche” programming like Al Jazeera English.

You can go here to “demand Al Jazeera in the United States.”

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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38 Responses

  1. marc b.
    March 1, 2011, 5:13 pm

    it’s called freedom of choice. you get to select among the pre-selected options, comcast doing yoeman’s work weeding out any anti-american influences. and, admittedly, nothing is more ‘pro-american’ than, say, some teenaged girl getting coerced into starring in ’18 year old facial’.

    you might want to look into another freedom of expression tech angle, that being all the horse bleep controversy over china and other countries restricing access to the internet and secured telecom. the point is that countries like the US have sophisticated enough technology to monitor these media, while china plays catch up. so it isn’t necessarily that the US is ‘freer’ just that we have the tech and the tech support (cooperation the tech companies with all the built-in back doors and such) to access information that the chinese cannot easily get at.

  2. Donald
    March 1, 2011, 5:18 pm

    They could keep all that stuff, add Al Jazeera and just drop Faux News, CNN, and MSNBC leaving room for two more stations where they could put on nature documentaries showing animals doing naughty things. Everyone wins.

  3. MeHaas
    March 1, 2011, 5:22 pm

    Why focus on the topic “why do they hate us”?
    You know they don’t hate you (if you’re reading these kinds of sites). They dislike the way you are acting. And only you (the people of America -*hint*) are able to change the way the USA is acting. So, please, work on that…

    • MeHaas
      March 1, 2011, 5:51 pm

      This parent-comment whas submitted before the author (of the mondo-post) changed the title. The originial title contained “why do they hate us?”.

  4. fuster
    March 1, 2011, 5:36 pm

    Al Jazeera isn’t blocked here. it’s available in DC.

    • Ellen
      March 1, 2011, 6:26 pm

      And in Vermont, but not in the rest of the country. How many people live in D.C? Just about almost 600 thousand.

      How many in Vermont? Around 621 thousand.

      With over 307 million people living in the USA, that means less than 4% of the population has access to a network that has specialized in covering parts of the world that receive little coverage.

      Americans are in dire need of information and not “news” shows where the “reporters” make themselves the story. Or yet another “Hot Pink and Tight Booty Girls.”

      We are a sad and ill-informed society.

      • Citizen
        March 2, 2011, 10:47 am

        Al Jazeera is also available to Toledo, Ohio metro residents. Is that because Detroit is so near, hence lots of Arab residents? I lived in and around Toledo–it’s not exactly a hotbed of political sophistication. I still have a Toledo Mudhens baseball cap and remember when the Perrysburg HS bees use to sneak across the Maumee River in the middle of the night to spill yellow paint on the Maumee HS stone panther on the grounds of the old Maumee High building.

    • eGuard
      March 1, 2011, 7:46 pm

      Then which porn channel is traded, in DC? Not the AIPAC backchannel, I guess.

    • MRW
      March 1, 2011, 8:43 pm

      Head-in-Sand-Alert again:
      Al Jazeera isn’t blocked here. it’s available in DC.

      • marc b.
        March 2, 2011, 10:25 am

        the frog (unintentionally) makes a great point. the politicians have a right to access to information that the great unwashed shouldn’t have access to. that just about sums up government’s contempt for citizens.

      • marc b.
        March 2, 2011, 10:25 am

        oop. eva, made the same point below.

  5. Pamela Olson
    March 1, 2011, 5:57 pm

    Sounds like the feedback I got on my book from several mainstream publishers: “Great story, great writing, we just don’t know where to put this or how to market it.”

    It’ll be out in April, though, nonetheless. :)

    • Citizen
      March 2, 2011, 10:50 am

      Same basic response to offered novel manuscripts that touch upon Jewish characters that differ from those in, say, Philip Roth novels.

  6. iamuglow
    March 1, 2011, 6:01 pm

    Tip – Anyone who uses a ‘Roku’ box can watch Al Jazeera in the US. You add it through their ‘Newscaster’ channel.

    Roku and other internet streaming television devices are a growing threat to the cable companies…More people using Roku to get channels cable doesnt offer will force the cable companies to either give the market what asking for or else lose money.

    • lobewyper
      March 1, 2011, 8:41 pm

      iamuglow,

      Have you seen Al Jazeera on a Roku box? If so, how’s the picture quality? Maybe Roku is the answer for the time being…

      • iamuglow
        March 2, 2011, 10:52 am

        Hi lobewyper,

        I have watched it on the Roku. The picture quality does suffer a little but IMO its still extremely watchable. Its also a huge coup to see the Al Jazeera logo next to CNN, Fox, etc.

        For people who want to move away from cable, Roku is just one device, theres also google TV which is more of a browser on the TV, and Im pretty sure Apple TV and the game systems all work the same way. Put content on your TV that you choose as opposed to being at the mercy of what the cable companies provide.

        Not carrying Al Jazeera highlights that the cable companies not only gauge their customers for crap channels, they are also restricting content based on the percieved politics. Thats reason enough to not give em business. I hope thats what ‘internet tv’ helps happen.

  7. Eva Smagacz
    March 1, 2011, 6:29 pm

    Al Jazeera is available in DC only bccause the Government of USA needs access to information.

    • MRW
      March 1, 2011, 8:43 pm

      Good one, Eva, and sooo true.

    • lysias
      March 1, 2011, 10:56 pm

      If U.S. government workers need access to information, why are they not allowed to look at WikiLeaks, or even to the WikiLeaks cables as reported on other news sites?

    • Citizen
      March 2, 2011, 10:54 am

      Got a good point, Eva–our MSM cable TV news-entertainment channels have been using video clips from Al Jazeera because they have nothing of their own to match its coverage of such an important area as the Middle East. They’ve even been putting on a few carefully selected Arabs to interview re breaking news because the Arab revolution somehow has not totally escaped the general American public, even those who watch no TV.

    • Chaos4700
      March 2, 2011, 11:09 am

      Not, you know, that they’re actually going to change their policies based off of information.

  8. Avi
    March 1, 2011, 6:36 pm

    It’s kind of funny that one has to calls the governments that block Al-Jazeera in the Middle East “autocratic”, but in the US where Al-Jazeera has been banished thanks to Rumsfeld and Co, no one dares call it “autocratic”.

    • Citizen
      March 2, 2011, 10:56 am

      Yep, Avi. The MSM cable TV shows don’t even acknowledge that Al Jazeera is blocked in the USA generally when they use Al Jazeera video clips.

  9. MeHaas
    March 1, 2011, 6:39 pm

    But it’s a free enterprise system

    No, it is not, because it’s you who ends up to be the end point.
    They are selling their services to you.
    You are (probably) also one of those in on the BDS. Why don’t you take that home (also)?

  10. Philip Munger
    March 1, 2011, 7:15 pm

    I got to hear the NPR segment while driving to work. The report was big on describing Arab nations’ hostility to the network.

    But no mention of the U.S. missile strike against the Kabul office in 2001, Colin Powell’s 2001 attempts to get AJ shut down, the death of Tareq Ayyoub at U.S. hands, Bush’s contemplated bombing of network HQ during the Battle of Fallujah, the detention of Sami al Hajj by the U.S. or other U.S. inspired mayhem against them, such as Colin Powell’s assertion that AJE’s coverage of Sarah Palin in 2008 is “killing us.” (The same crew he was accusing spent election day 2008 at my house in Wasilla. They seemed nice enough – far better reporters than most I’ve met or worked with.)

    U.S. history of problems with AJ and AJE should have been reported, as it is very newsworthy. I wonder if it was edited out of the final cut?

  11. piotr
    March 1, 2011, 7:29 pm

    It so happens that in USA a cable operator has municipally supervised local monopoly in most places. I can have Comcast or a satellite, but actually just Comcast (I am renting).

    Of course, there is also a commercial side: how many potential viewers of Al Jazeera would pay-per-view, or how many would upgrade the basic package to include Al Jazeera etc. The thing is that afficionados of “Totally nude Army wives alone” are ready to pay more (I guess) than the fans of Al Jazeera. After all, what can make a patriot sleep better but the knowledge that the wives of our boys who fight for our Fatherlands in far flung places around the globe are indeed alone, as they should? While Al Jazeera fans are content with checking their wares on internet, in spite of woeful resolution and dubious audio.

  12. Les
    March 1, 2011, 8:05 pm

    Uri Avnery:

    “DURING THE whole week I spent every spare moment glued to Aljazeera.

    One word about the station: excellent.

    It need not fear comparison with any broadcaster in the world, including the BBC and CNN. Not to mention our own stations, which serve a murky brew concocted from propaganda, information and entertainment.

    Much has been said about the part played by the social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, in the revolutions that are now turning the Arab world upside down. But for sheer influence, Aljazeera trumps them all. During the last decade, it has changed the Arab world beyond recognition. In the last few weeks, it has wrought miracles.

    To see the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the other countries on Israeli, American or German TV is like kissing through a handkerchief. To see them on Aljazeera is to feel the real thing.

    All my adult life I have advocated involved journalism. I have tried to teach generations of journalists not to become reporting robots, but human beings with a conscience who see their mission in promoting the basic human values. Aljazeera is doing just that. And how!

    These last weeks, tens of millions of Arabs have depended on this station in order to find out what is happening in their own countries, indeed in their home towns – what is happening on Habib Bourguiba Boulevard in Tunis, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli.

    I know that many Israelis will consider these words heretical, given Aljazeera’s staunch support of the Palestinian cause. It is seen here as the arch-enemy, no less than Osama bin Laden or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But one simply must view its broadcasts, to have any hope of understanding what is happening in the Arab world, including the occupied Palestinian territories.

    When Aljazeera covers a war or a revolution in the Arab world, it covers it. Not for an hour or two, but for 24 hours around the clock. The pictures are engraved in one’s memory, the testimonies stir one’s emotions. The impact on Arab viewers is almost hypnotic.”

    link to counterpunch.com

  13. Chris S
    March 1, 2011, 8:33 pm

    Breaking “News”: Julian “America Hater, Hand Bloodier, 9/11 Mossad Double Agent, Swedish Semi-Rapist” Assange earns a new title to add to his collection: Jew Hater.

    • Chris S
      March 1, 2011, 8:47 pm

      Which also – imo – seems to beg the question, what exactly was Assange complaining about? While not being his characteristic articulate self he ended up saying “forget the Jewish thing.”

      What it sounds like Assange’s essential point was, which was lost in the “Jew Hater” hubbub, is that Pro-Israel forces at the Guardian put the interests of Israel over the interests of the US. And this is supposed to be a “conspiracy theory”? So by extension is the influence of the “Jewish Lobby” in the US a vicious “conspiracy theory” too? Along the same lines as faking the moon landing? And Jews aren’t in powerful positions in Hollywood and the US media either, right? Another vicious antisemitic conspiracy theory. Uh huh. Like there is anything wrong with that in the first place.

      • lysias
        March 2, 2011, 10:54 am

        What happened to the earlier charge that Assange had been paid off by the Israelis not to release cables damaging to Israel?

  14. Nevada Ned
    March 2, 2011, 1:10 am

    You can watch Al Jazeera English on your computer using the free program livestation.com. It works on a Mac, don’t know about Windows. You do need a cablemodem or some other broadband internet access.
    And it’s possible to send the computer output to your television, although I haven’t personally done it.
    Go to http://www.livestation.com and download now!!

    • Ellen
      March 2, 2011, 3:21 am

      Ned, most people do not watch TV — nor do they wish to — over a computer. That it is essentially banned for 96% of the USA (but not at all in Canada) is an abomination.

      The bigger questions is why? It would be interesting to see some honest reporting on that.

      So with this reality, American mass media has turned into a modern version of state sponsored television of the former Soviet Block. Why is that?

      • Citizen
        March 2, 2011, 11:03 am

        Look to the members of the board of CSPAN, and to the owners/honchos at the cable companies.

  15. DICKERSON3870
    March 2, 2011, 6:14 am

    RE: “Comcast has limited bandwidth to devote to new channels, making a new channel difficult to justify” – Marketwatch
    MY SNARK: Not to mention that Comcast now owns MSNBC. So why would they give a slot on their cable systems to a competing news channel? Or am I being overly cynical?
    P.S. No sadomasochism on Comcast? What an outrage. I’ll make them so sorry!
    NEWLY AVAILABLE FROM NETFLIX (and excellent): Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, 2010, R, 117 minutes, DVD, Blu-ray and streaming (HD available)link to movies.netflix.com

  16. Hostage
    March 2, 2011, 9:32 am

    When Mount Safa did not come to Mohammed, Mohammed went to Mount Safa. I can either watch Al Jazeera English on the Dish network Link TV channel or on the free dedicated channel available via the Roku Newscaster section in the Roku player Channel Store.

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