Al-Jazeera's purchase of Current TV could be a promising experiment
Media ownership is shrinking in America. Consolidation means fewer perspectives and less diversity in journalism.
For those reasons, I'm not too concerned about Al-Jazeera's decision to purchase San Francisco-based Current TV and expand its presence in the United States. (The New York Times' Brian Stelter broke the story on Wednesday.) I'd much prefer this outcome over seeing Al Gore's little-watched, struggling network go black.
The Middle East is changing quickly. We need to understand what's happening there. We need to better acquaint ourselves with the culture and customs. We need as much context as possible. The way we receive this information directly affects American foreign policy and security.
Controversy surrounding the Arab network's past broadcasts has tainted its English-language efforts, but Al Jazeera English has proven to be a solid outlet for journalists to produce thought-provoking work. Their unique access to the region and coverage of the Arab Spring earned a Peabody in 2012.
Al-Jazeera English's other top broadcast honors include a duPont-Columbia baton for its coverage of relief efforts in Haiti (seen in the video below) and a George Polk Award for its documentary on the unraveling of the Bahraini uprising.
Before we fret over foreign ownership of an American media company, let's remind ourselves that we've been well-served by other international news outlets. The BBC is one obvious example. The Economist is another. Both are British-owned with bureaus throughout North America. They offer valuable insight into how the rest of the world views American policies.
I've also heard concerns about Al-Jazeera's light coverage of its owners, the royal family of Qatar. Is that really a surprise? The same criticism should be directed to U.S. media conglomerates. Does Fox News cover the travails of the Murdoch family? How deeply does CNN dig into Time Warner's woes? What about NBC and NBCUniversal? Or ABC and Disney? CBS and Viacom?
Give Al-Jazeera America a chance. They want to increase the volume of journalistic content in this country at a time when news organizations are cutting costs.
Let's trust viewers to watch and judge for themselves whether Al-Jazeera America offers fair coverage.
Achenblog by Joel Achenbach
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