Would You Watch Al Jazeera?

Juliette Kayyem’s editorial in the Boston Globe, Let US See Al Jazeera has me thinking.  Should American cable and satellite companies carry Al Jazeera English?  Ms. Kayyem makes the case that they should because…

Not carrying the network sends a message to the Arab world about America’s willingness to accept information, unfiltered, from the very region we spend so much time talking about.


This battle over cable access must be understood as a proxy for a broader lack of understanding between the United States and the region. Cable companies have no obligation to run programming, but their silence to the question “why no access’’ is a judgment, understood by the Arab world as a value-laden decision about America’s lack of desire to hear from the Arab world about the Arab world.

Al JazeeraI understand Ms. Kayyem’s points, but if I ran Comcast, my response would be “So What?”.  It’s not Comcast’s or Time Warner’s job to promote Mid-east understanding.  This will sound crass, but it’s true, their job is to make money.  They make money by filling their available bandwidth with channels that will entice people to subscribe to their service.  If they believed carrying AJE would deliver more subscribers than the 5th ESPN  channel or 3rd country music video network they would carry it.

The problem is this.  These companies know that adding the channel to the line up would cause many more people to cancel their service than it would attract.  Plus, the negative publicity would not only cost subscribers but it would cost marketing money to defend the decision.  Is that a sad commentary? Yes, but reality is often disappointing.

I sympathize with Ms. Kayyem.  I would find it interesting to see, first hand, how the Arab world reports on the Iranian protests, unfiltered, as well as Sheppard Smith’s or Chris Matthews‘ take on it.  I think American’s would benefit from the unfiltered views of people and organizations that aren’t viewing the world through red, white & blue colored glasses.  But I also believe my daughter would benefit from having a detailed understanding of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, but I can’t make her interested in US History.  Try as I might, I can’t force her to be interested in the works of Ayn Rand.  Likewise, cable companies making AJE available will not make the average American give a rat’s tail about the perspective of the Arab world.  There’s an old saying about horses and water…

Question: Would the Arab world would really care that much about what channels we watch if we weren’t constantly meddling in their nations’  internal affairs?

About Larry Downes

Son, brother, husband, father, boss, mentor & friend. Believer in unfettered personal liberty. Occasional host on 93.1 WIBC in Indianapolis.

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