Al-Jazeera America Launches
Al-Jazeera, the Middle Eastern news organization that has become an ever-present wartime news outlet over recent years, just announced the launch of Al-Jazeera America. The network, who says it will reach 48 million households, bought out former Vice President Al Gore's fledgling cable network Current TV for a reported $500 million and went live on August 20th. Immediately, contractual disputes between the network and two of its carriers --Time Warner Cable and AT&T U-Verse --dropped Al Jazeera's household reach by 5 million homes. Despite the drop, Al Jazeera went live, promising to deliver unbiased content to a nation that has been dominated by a contemporary media model that serves more, it seems, to divide, than to inform.
Their website tagline reads "Al Jazeera America offers unbiased, fact-based, in-depth stories of U.S. and international news, including sports, business, lifestyle and investigative journalism" and their stake in the extremely competitive arena comes with it's fair share of criticism. One anonymous advertiser said he wouldn't advertise on the network, implying its connection with terrorist organizations responsible for the World Trade Center attacks in 2001. This is despite the fact that no evidence exists that Al-Jazeera executives were involved.
Advocacy group FSACrimes, however, accuses Al-Jazeera of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and covering a staged murder as part of that support. The killing in question was supposedly of a man killed by Free Syrian Army fighters, a group the brotherhood opposes.
Conjecture about their intent, bias against Middle Easterners and the near fanatical following that Fox News enjoys by its audience are hurdles that Al-Jazeera will , no doubt, be challenged with. Conservative media supporters, armed with disdain for anything that reports a message different, or counter to their belief structure, criticize the Arab owned network. Some Conservative blog posts and on-line opinion pieces often refer to Al-Jazeera as 'Muslim-owned' or 'Jew Hating' and 'Anti American'. Even purportedly objective websites like Newsmax.com use incendiary language and phrasing that may be meant to illicit a negative emotional response from their conservative readership base.
But Al Jazeera America also has support by political heavies like former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton and Senator John McCain, arguably among the most polar opposite leaders in our country.
Conservative accusations that Al Jazeera America is connected to Islamic extremism and hates Israel and America come despite the fact that Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal is the second largest voting shareholder of News Corp stock, Fox's parent company. Waleed is also a generous philanthropist whose donations have also helped fund the controversial Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York City.
So, while conservatives and conservative media outlets paint a nefarious picture of Al Jazeera, they neglect to disclose information about their own connections to similar controversy. This convenient turning of the cheek speaks volumes about the nature of conventional media in the United States and the schism that exists between right and left leaning media audiences. The sweet spot in the middle, the audience that craves the unbiased truth, just might serve Al-Jazeera America well.