11/15/06

"Al-Jazeera English": coming to TV near you?

The well-know Arabic-language news programs of Al-Jazeera will now be available in English. The new English-speaking Al-Jazeera channel "hopes to steal viewers from CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. by giving the world's 1 billion English speakers news from a non-Western perspective."

Al-Jazeera has at several times been banned in 18 Western countries and its reporters are still banned in 4 Arab nations. It has been accused by the Bush administration of inciting terrorism. Al-Jazeera has been frequently accused of contributing to anit-Western, anti-American, and anti-Semitic attitudes in the Arab-speaking world.

My own concerns are well captured (and exaggerated) in this (politically incorrect) Mad TV skit.

Of course, the whole story does raise the issues of the amount of power weilded by mass media. Where is the line between news "from_______ perspective" and propaganda? Is there one?

It was easy to ask this question while listening to NPR in the runnup to the elections when the story every day seemed to be "we are all so excited that the Democrats are going to take back the congress!!" In not so many words. One wonders if the American people would have been as "upset about Iraq" if the news coverage had been more favorable or if the majority of reporters had been supporters of the war from the beginning. I am not saying that they should have been supportive, mind you, I am just asking you to imagine the way coverage would have been handled if they had been, and then if things like National Elections might have therefore turned out differently. Regardless of your party (or lack thereof) if the answer to that question seems to you to be "yes" then that ought to be scary. It scares me.

I also can't help but wonder what happens to the soul of a society in which all of the people are constantly exposed to 24-hour "news" networks? Could this be a major contributor to the polarization and the breakdown of bi-partisan dialogue in our country? When everything happens at the speed of a soundbite? When complex issues are dumbed down to a 30 second spot? Could real and serious dialogue possibly survive in such an environment?

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4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a mass comm perspective, what is so terrible about hearing this controversial program in English? At least then we'd know what they were actually saying and not just our CNN or FOX NEWS, etc. say that they said.
But I truly agree that our society has become too inundated by the media. People no longer think for themselves as much as they think what they are told to. --bethany

9:46 PM, November 25, 2006  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

I think you are kinda getting at exactly what my fear is. Thinking and sorting through complex issues is hard work. It takes commitment, time, and discipline to have real and earnest discourse. What we have instead is a media culture of quasi-propoganda at the speed of a soundbite. Yes "freedom of the press" is wonderful and all that because of the good things it does (like holding government officials accountable in some ways - which is important in a democratic system) - but it is also a double-edged sword, and the ways it has impoverished us when combined with telecommunication and a general expectation of instant gratification may not be entirely clear yet.
Some have suggested that the internet and blogs and whatnot may be a corrective here. I am not entirely sure about that, but I hope it is true.

10:19 AM, November 26, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think media has ever been completely agenda free. There is not one paper, magazine, tv news program, or radio show that is not trying to sell something. (Advertising)

The new media is blogs, but everyone has a point of view or ideology there as well. So maybe one more won't hurt. I would say we need a White Male Christian News Channel but we already got FOX News.

Oh and btw..."Death to America!" Funny stuff.

4:55 PM, November 26, 2006  
Blogger Nance said...

I'd say there certainly haven't been many agenda-less media venues in our history... after all, the earliest American press was trying to incite a revolution against the Crown. Now the messages are simply politically leaning as well as inundated with advertising to pay for the paper/site/whatever.
My only question concerning the Al-Jazeera English programming would be this: what sort of media is this, in the eyes of people in the Middle East? Is this some kind of reliable news or blatant propaganda, in their opinions. If the people exposed to this stuff will say that it is in fact honest journalism, seeking to be objective while tilted by the leanings of only the individual reporter(be there such a thing), then what the heck? I'd be for that. Different perspectives can be invaluable.

6:36 PM, November 27, 2006  

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