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

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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.”

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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