Media critic: Al-Jazeera's coverage garners praise from Clinton
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During testimony Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized the shallowness of American media in general and its coverage of international events in particular.
She singled out for praise Al-Jazeera, the 15-year-old international news network based in Qatar and funded largely by its government. The TV network is viewed with suspicion by conservatives in the United States for an alleged "pro-Arab" slant despite its critical coverage of Arab despots and their regimes.
Sounding more like a media critic than a Cabinet member, Ms. Clinton said: "You may not agree with [Al-Jazeera], but you feel you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials." She likened media discourse in the United States to "arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff" that "is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners."
Such praise for Al-Jazeera is rarely heard from the lips of prominent U.S. officials. Despite the fact that the network is widely available in Europe, Canada, Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle East, its English version is carried in the States only by cable companies in Toledo, Ohio; Burlington, Vt., and Washington, D.C.
Buckeye Cable, owned by Post-Gazette parent company Block Communications Inc., brings Al-Jazeera English to northwest Ohio and southeastern Michigan.
Since the revolutions in the Middle East began this year, interest in Al-Jazeera's coverage has grown. More Americans are accessing its English channel online for in-depth reports on the region.
Just when many U.S. news organizations are scaling back international coverage, Al-Jazeera is opening more foreign bureaus. While there's no telling how the network would cover an uprising in Qatar, its host and benefactor, it may be time for more American cable and satellite carriers to give Al-Jazeera a look. Charlie Sheen can wait.
First Published March 7, 2011 12:00 am