The Middle East oil fields are paying quite well this summer in America – and the beneficiaries are American liberal journalists. The launch of Al-Jazeera America can very well forever change American media. Spending time each summer in Europe, I watch Al-Jazeera and even as a political conservative, find it to be excellent TV. It is well-produced, professional TV which has flourished in the ratings in the 130 countries in which it is available. Not unlike other TV stations, they have a political bent and it’s to be expected.
Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Al-Jazeera America is rapidly growing and poised for success in the United States. As former CNN anchor Ali Velshi put it, “This is the first big journalism hiring binge that anyone’s been on for a long time.” What better time could there be for a station which is owned by Qatar, one of the richest countries in the world, to enter the American market – which they have long tried to enter. American journalists are overwhelmingly liberal -- and the Arab nations are now able to pay reporters while few others can and will. Scary times indeed.
The fact that when Al Jazeera was founded it received a $147 million subsidy from the Qatari government and continue to receive at least $100 million annually in Qatari subsidies will surely not be widely reported or known. And the media outlet – owned by the Qatari royal family – was described yesterday by a senior executive as “an American news channel that broadcasts news of interest and importance to its American audience.” Indeed, very American.
Al-Jazeera has taken the studio space at the renowned Newseum in Washington, D.C., which was formerly that of ABC’s "This Week" program, and are opening at least 12 news bureaus throughout the U.S. nationwide, and planning to have original programming which emanates from the USA. Liberals need to be kvelling: A sitting United States president with a Justice Department that searches and seizes records from Fox News and the Associated Press, and a former United States vice president who makes hundreds of millions of dollars selling his TV network to the government of Qatar.
And money isn’t an issue – as the United States Department of State has said, Qatar uses Al-Jazeera “as a bargaining chip in foreign policy negotiations by adapting its coverage to suit other foreign leaders and offering to cease critical transmissions in exchange for major concessions.” They are willing to lose money to spread their propaganda, in pursuit of political agendas. Who cares about losing some money in TV – as business between the US and Qatar continues to expand rapidly (billions of dollars annually) and they can influence policy in the Mid East and elsewhere? Surely, it’s a wise investment.
Al Jazeera will be a force to be reckoned with and will have a major impact on news coverage worldwide. It’s owned by the Qatar royal family, rulers of one of the world’s richest nations, who don’t worry about stock market prices or shareholders. Qatar is ruled by sharia (Islamic law) with tremendous oil and gas reserves.
They aren’t in a rush to open and are dedicated to doing it right. They have hired a smart PR Agency in Qorvis Communications, which has shilled in the past for Bahrain, where there is mass torture of citizens and at least 60 people have been killed by government security forces in the past few years, as well as Saudi Arabia after 9/11.
Now, don’t be alarmed about Al-Jazeera, as their entry to the U.S. has been paved by a former American vice president. Of course, we do read and hear endlessly of the danger posed by the possibility of the conservative Koch Brothers buying the eight Tribune Co. daily papers and plenty of shouts from “media watchdog” organizations reminding the public of the need for independent, non-biased media.
Now, of course American conservatives are a danger – but don’t question Arab emirates. That would not be appropriate.
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