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Media Analyses





Al-Jazeera America (AJAM) Watch


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Update: AJAM discontinued broadcasting on April 12, 2016 at 11:59 p.m. (Eastern)
 
Al-Jazeera America (AJAM) news network, financed by the oil-rich Persian Gulf state of Qatar, includes anti-Israel propaganda in its technically high-quality presentations. Shown above is Al-Jazeera's distinctive logo whose calligraphic design spells “Al Jazeera” which is "the peninsula" in Arabic. Qatar geographically is a thumb-like peninsula jutting northward into the gulf from Saudi Arabia.

Qatar's foreign policy in recent years has included backing Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government, ousted by the military, with the support of millions of protesters; assisting Hamas, a U.S. and Israeli-designated terrorist organization, against its Palestinian Authority (Fatah) rivals; and funding Islamic extremists battling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad – as well as hosting a large U.S. military base (see, for example, "Amid fading Arab Spring, Qatar has been losing clout; The small Persian Gulf nation wanted to play a large role in the Middle East but has suffered setbacks recently," The Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2013).

Al-Jazeera America has a large roster of experienced reporters and other television news staffers, including many from major networks. Its presentations have the advantage of not being interrupted or foreshortened by frequent and at times lengthy commercials as is the case with the other commercial news networks including ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, MSNBC and NBC.

Still, the question remains unanswered: Why would Qatar's rulers – who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to launch Al-Jazeera America – want to compete in an already crowded market in which viewing audiences have declined in recent years? Informational altruism? Qatar itself prevents Al-Jazeera Arabic from reporting freely on subjects sensitive to the ruling dynasty. Or, by story selection and slant, to influence, over time, American viewers' attitudes? Cases in point:

• Al-Jazeera English in May-June 2013 aired the Nakba film, a polished, multi-part production which originally ran in 2008 on Al-Jazeera Arabic. The film, recycled in English, provides a one-sided propagandistic view of events surrounding Israel's struggle for independence. Elements of the film are available online. The film propagates the nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe") myth, which falsely claims that the Palestinian Arab people in 1948 suffered a forced exodus at the hands of Israeli Jews. Furthermore, it is claimed egregiously that this event – overwhelmingly an Arab self-expulsion – is comparable to the Holocaust suffered by European Jews at the hands of the Nazis and their sympathizers.

• Sheik Yusuf al-Qawadari's Al-Jazeera Arabic TV programs reach tens of millions. Al-Qawadari was a "spiritual guide" to the Muslim Brotherhood, the anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Jewish movement active in Egypt and elsewhere. He hopes for the conversion of Europe to Islam and a Muslim-led genocide of the Jews." (Washington Jewish Week, Sept. 27, 2012).

• Former Al-Jazeera English anchor Dave Marash gave his reason for resigning: "… the channel had changed radically from when I was hired… By the time I left … [functions of the Washington bureau] had been taken over in Doha, the capital of Qatar… I, as the leading anchor in Washington, felt that I could not put my name on those kind of stories [reflecting Doha's ‘attitude' i.e. the need to be aligned with Qatar's foreign policy objectives]."
 
The New York Times reported on Oct. 24, 2013 that Al-Jazeera America is already “available in about 54 million of the 100 million American homes that subscribe to satellite and cable television …”
 
How ambitious is the undertaking? USA Today reported:

Nearly all 850 employees budgeted for the debut have been hired, including writers and editors for its website www.aljazeera.com/america. (Several former USA TODAY reporters are among those hired by the network.) It has opened 12 bureaus across the U.S., with reporters filing stories for rehearsal programs. The bureaus are in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. Several former anchors at rival networks — John Seigenthaler from NBC; David Shuster from MSNBC; and Joie Chen, Ali Velshi and Soledad O'Brien from CNN [Tony Harris from CNN] [Libby Casey from C-SPAN] [Ray Suarez from PBS]— have joined the roster. In July, former ABC News executive Kate O'Brian was named president, heading the editorial operation that comprises about two-thirds of its total employees.
 
Its journalistic credo – offering "fact-based, unbiased and in-depth journalism" – will be supported by "heavy investment," according to its interim chief, Ehab Al Shihabi, an Al Jazeera international operations executive who was tapped to oversee the launch. "We're not coming here just to survive. We're coming here to win."

Update: Jan. 9, 2014

To understand Middle Eastern news media, “try to understand the nature of regimes and what their interests are,” Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani ambassador to the United States, said at a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies program on “Terrorism, Regime and Western Media.” “Americans need to listen to what leaders say in their own language to their own people,” Haqqani told the audience at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 11, 2013. “You should pay attention … since it's all about narrative building.”

That narrative for Al-Jazeera, the context in which individual news segments are presented, “reflects a political Islamist point of view,” said another speaker, James Jeffrey, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Turkey. The Islamist viewpoint, he added, matches that of a large part of Al-Jazeera's audiences.

Qatar needs a strong relationship with the United States but is involved more in internecine Arab struggles than it is with America, asserted the Brookings Institution's Jeremy Shapiro. So “even Al-Jazeera English and Al-Jazeera America … are not really about us.” They are “part of Qatar's survival strategy.” Al-Jazeera Arabic, English and America “are three gradations of the same thing,” Shapiro said, but each attuned to its own audience.

Paul Farhi, Washington Post media beat reporter, wrote of Al-Jazeera Arabic that “the network's pariah status in Egypt represents an abrupt reversal of fortune for a news organization often lionized for challenging the media monopoly of authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East” (“Al-Jazeera: Observers may criticize Egypt's arrest of its journalists. But few are defending the network's journalism,” Jan. 6, 2014). Following the military's overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi last summer, “Egyptian authorities and Al-Jazeera's critics—including some of the network's own employees—have accused it of being a mouthpiece for Morsi and the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
 
“Just days after Morsi was removed by forces loyal to Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi the past summer, 22 employees of the network resigned en masse. Several accused the network of slanting its coverage in favor of Morsi and the Brotherhood in the months leading up to his ouster.”

Al-Jazeera “repeatedly dismissed that idea,” Farhi noted. But “more broadly, Al-Jazeera has for years battled criticism that it is a tool of its patron, the tiny, gas-rich Persian Gulf state of Qatar. Qatar's emir, the royal head of state, has bankrolled the network since its inception in 1996 and recently funded its expansion in the United States via a new domestic news network, Al-Jazeera America, based in New York.”

An Al-Jazeera commentator, a former Muslim Brotherhood official, “asserted in an August broadcast that Sissi has Jewish heritage and that he is implementing a Zionist plan to divide Egypt,” The Post noted, citing a translation by MEMRI, Middle East Media Research Institute. MEMRI's president, Yigal Karmon “says Americans see a very different face of Al-Jazeera through Al-Jazeera America. … ‘There are two Al-Jazeeras,' he said. ‘It is talking with a forked tongue in two languages.'”

Not always forked, when it comes to coverage of Israel on Al-Jazeera America, CAMERA has found. Just slanted.

CAMERA's chronicle of AJAM's journalistic malpractice related to Israel and the Middle East

 
 
 
 
 
January-March 2015
 
October-December 2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cable/satellite companies

The cable/satellite television provider companies' numbers of subscribers determine how much they pay the cable television networks for the right to air their programs. The networks negotiate a fixed fee per subscriber per month. Four of the companies have 75 percent of the subscribers – Comcast Cable, DirecTV, Dish Network, and Time Warner Cable. Since Al-Jazeera appears to be so well bankrolled, it may be able to either forgo the fee or accept a much lower fee than required by other cable news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox. Thus, it may be economically viable for any cable/satellite company to carry Al-Jazeera America.

Contacts:
 
• Comcast Cable's Chief Executive Officer Neil Smit at Neil_Smit@cable.comcast.com

• DirecTV's Chief Executive Officer Michael White at mdwhite@directv.com

• Dish Network's Executive Vice President Robert Olson at robert.olson@dish.com

• Time Warner Cable's Executive Vice President Marc Lawrence-Apfelbaum at marc.lawrence-apfelbaum@twcable.com

• Verizon's chairman and chief executive officer Lowell C. McAdam at lowell.mcadam@one.verizon.com

• Bright House Network's and Advance/Newhouse Communications' President Steven A. Miron at sam@advancenewhouse.com

• Suddenlink's executive officer Mary Meduski  at mary.meduski@cequel3.com

The two main industry groups:

• National Cable & Telecommunications Association at info@ncta.com

• American Cable Association's President Matthew M. Polka at aca@americancable.org
(represents smaller cable companies mainly).

Will company officials be content to see their company's name linked, deservedly, to a television network used as a platform for Islamist-inspired views in general and anti-Israel propaganda in particular, should that prove to be the case?

To be effective, contacts should be courteous and well-informed.


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