Analyzing Al Jazeera

By Alex Weprin 

Media reporters, TV critics and even the New York Times editorial board have been weighing in on Al Jazeera’s purchase of Current TV.

The Baltimore Sun‘s David Zurawik writes that the addition of Al Jazeera to U.S. cable lineups is “a very good thing.”

In fact, the cable industry’s success in keeping Al Jazeera English off all but a handful of systems in the U.S. was one of the great wrongs of American media. And no one, it seems, wanted to address it. Media critics who looked the other way for whatever reasons should be ashamed.

The New York Times wrote an editorial on the matter saying that it “could bring an important international perspective” to U.S. TV, and gently criticized Time Warner Cable for dropping the channel.

Doubts about the independence of Al Jazeera do not justify removing it from cable and satellite systems. With the exception of a few places, like Washington and New York City, Al Jazeera English is not available to most American viewers. Why not let them make up their own minds about the network and its journalism?

Ad Age argues that there is demand for strong international news, but it is expensive:

But even the BBC can’t match Al Jazeera’s funding. “If you want to be credible in international news it comes at cost,” Mr. Egan said. “You need to afford to maintain a high caliber of international journalists. We can’t spend $500 million acquiring an Al Gore startup network.”