THE COUNTERSPIN program on FAIR features Ken Picard of Seven Days.
The GUARDIAN has done a piece on Tony Burman, the new boss of Al Jazeera.
In Burlington, New England, where a tiny city-owned broadcaster with a few thousand subscribers carries Al-Jazeera, complaints from locals prompted the company to announce that it will be taken off air, but a local Republican representative is supporting its continued presence, Burman claims, and that decision could be reversed.Hmmm, I wonder who the Repub is. Any guesses?
Mr Burman will be attending next week's public forums on the Al Jazeera presence in Burlington.
TWO NEW HAMPSHIRE PAPERS with Vermont readership have editorials:
VALLEY NEWS (NH)
Channeling Free SpeechCiting the Valley News editorial, the KEENE (NH) SENTINEL writes
Al-Jazeera English on TV
Given what passes for television “news” programming in America these days, it's not astonishing that some viewers would like to banish a channel or two from the satellite or cable menu. That, however, seems quite different from what's going on in Vermont’s largest city, where Burlington Telecom is under pressure to drop the English language service of Al-Jazeera, the Arab-owned network based in Qatar.
As it happens, Burlington is one of the few places in the United States where Al-Jazeera English can be seen, others being Washington, D.C., Houston and parts of Ohio (figure that one out). It is largely invisible in this country because, in the words of the International Herald Tribune, “the reputation of its Arabic sibling as the preferred outlet for videos from Osama bin Laden has made the English-language version too hot to handle for some U.S. cable operators.”
Urging the municipally-owned Burlington Telecom to join the blackout is something called the Defenders Council of Vermont, whose 15 or 20 members conceive it as their mission to “educate the citizens of Vermont about the nature, reality and threat of radical Islam.” It seems not to have occurred to the Defenders that pulling the plug on an Arab-owned news service might not be the best way to educate Vermonters about the political and social perspectives of the Islamic world. Or that anyone offended by the programming has recourse to the TV viewer's ultimate trump card -- the remote.
This is not the only irony involved in this story, though. As the Associated Press reported earlier this week, the executive director of Burlington Telecom, Chris Burns, was only too happy to oblige the Defenders Council. He announced that the channel would be removed, but Mayor Bob Kiss put on the brakes until public reaction could be more thoroughly gauged. Perhaps in the meantime, the mayor will introduce the telecom director to the First Amendment, which, after all, is not only about the right to voice unpopular opinions but also about the right to hear them. If democracy is based on the notion that citizens best govern themselves by sorting through conflicting opinions in the marketplace of ideas, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for a government entity to restrict the range of ideas about public affairs that are offered in that marketplace. It wholly contradicts the nation's democratic faith to believe that Americans are unable to distinguish between ideas that have merit and those that are spurious.
Beyond that, it seems to us that one of the gravest threats to national security in the 21st century is the extent to which America remains ignorant of the world and of how that world views this country. It is perhaps telling that BBC World, the BBC's round-the-clock news channel on which Al-Jazeera English was initially modeled, is also largely unavailable in the United States. In a dangerous world, Americans live in isolation at their own peril.
It is also worth noting that the English language service of Al-Jazeera recently hired as its new managing director Tony Burman, a former editor in chief of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. He plans to increase coverage of news in the United States heading into this fall's presidential election; invest in more news bureaus; and present “more provocative” news programming and investigative journalism. In short, Al-Jazeera English proposes to do what major American broadcast news organizations used to do.
What Al-Jazeera says
[I]t seems to us that one of the gravest threats to national security in the 21st century is the extent to which America remains ignorant of the world and of how that world views this country. It is perhaps telling that BBC World, the BBC's round-the-clock news channel on which Al-Jazeera English was initially modeled, is also largely unavailable in the United States. In a dangerous world, Americans live in isolation at their own peril ...