24 February 2009

Why isn't AJE broadcast on Australian TV?

"Gaza war coverage raises Al Jazeera hope" is the headline in today's Australian over a story about Al Jazeera English (AJE)'s attempts to gain access to Australian television screens.

Just as the 1991 Gulf War gave cable news channel CNN a boost, the war in Gaza has given Al Jazeera English a chance to break into the American and Australian markets.

Al Jazeera English (AJE) managing director Tony Burman told Media the network was the only one to have its own reporters inside Gaza during the war because Israel barred international networks CNN and BBC World from entering.

So keen were people to get an alternative source of information, AJE's web video stream saw a 600 per cent jump in worldwide viewership -- from 3 million to 17 million minutes.

A good point this. It's not the only time that AJE has been able to provide on the spot coverage when the big two were excluded: last year's Zimbabwe elections is another example.

I regularly watch AJE reports on YouTube, which has probably hitherto been the easiest means for most people here to access them, though another source Livestation, is now available.

It appears that Foxtel has considered ( is considering?) adding AJE to its current suite of mostly western-oriented news channels or, IMO a less desirable option, allowing subscribers to pay an additional fee (presumably like the Setanta Sport option)

[A] Foxtel spokesman says the decision to take AJE depends on demand from consumers. "Foxtel has not had significant commercial discussions with Al Jazeera for a number of years," he says. "Our decision on whether or not to incur the costs of adding AJE to our current choice of channels would depend on whether our customers value it compared with many alternative channels we could provide.

"Al Jazeera could make AJE available to Foxtel customers through our Access Undertaking, which has been approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This agreement enables them to offer their channel over Foxtel's digital television platform to Foxtel customers."

Al Jazeera does present a different perspective on the news, though it is far from a mouthpiece for radical Islamic ideas. While it's not shown in the USA it is available on pay TV networks elsewhere, eg in the UK where the Fox affiliate Sky TV shows it.

I've tried to contact Foxtel to state that I would "value" AJE "compared with many [unspecified] alternative channels we could provide." Unfortunately I've not yet been able to make my point through its written feedback processes.

Update 24 February

Have contacted Foxtel by phone to convey my views,

16 February 2009

Big ship, small minds

Today the large P&O cruise ship Arcadia called at Port Adelaide.

I went there to meet some English friends, one of whom is 87 years old, who were visiting Adelaide for the first time.

Arrangements, or lack thereof, for disembarking passengers left much to be desired. A wire fence security cordon extending well beyond the passenger terminal (and my comprehension) added to the third world ambience. I took the photo from the security barrier. The passenger terminal is the white building on the right, about 200m from the barrier.

The port security staff, while courteous, lacked the authority and perhaps the desire to assist those passengers who had not booked tours or taxis. It took me several phone calls and about 45 minutes to obtain permission to drive to the terminal and collect my friends, who'd been left waiting outside the building.

One problem was that nobody with a skerrick of authority seemed to have easy access to a passenger list, let alone a list of those who'd actually disembarked. This is a major deficiency in security arrangements.

Another was that the security cordon was crack-brainedly large. Why does Port Adelaide need a large fenced off compound surrounding its terminal building when other terminals eg ports such as San Francisco and Singapore and every international airport I've seen, don't?

On reflection it seems as if the port operators are trying to dissuade cruise ships from visiting Adelaide. If they were serious about supporting tourism in SA they could do a few simple things such as putting information on the web and allowing people meeting passengers to register in advance so that they can meet their friends without having to wait in limbo for an indefinite time.

15 February 2009

Recent ABC highlights

As well as continuing its comprehensive coverage of the Victorian bushfires and their aftermath the ABC has broadcast some very interesting programs lately.

The first Four Corners of the year "The Perfect Storm" was a succinct survey of the global financial crisis financial with particular reference to Far North Queensland. The program can, at least for the time being, be viewed online while the program transcript and a lot of other material is on the website.

Radio National continues to broadcast many gems. The latest Counterpoint featured a long interview with Dennis Dutton, philosophy professor and editor of the estimable Arts & Letters Daily discussing, among other things, evolutionary aesthetics. The transcript is available and worth reading.

A quirkily interesting Lingua Franca discussed the outcomes of the Collins Dictionary "Save the last word" campaign (transcript also available).

The endangered words are/were:

abstergent: cleansing or scouring
agrestic: rural, rustic, unpolished, uncouth
apodeictic: unquestionably true by virtue of demonstration
caducity: perishableness, senility
caliginosity: dimness, darkness
compossible: possible in coesistence with something else
embrangle: to confuse or entangle
exuviate: to shed (a skin or similar outer covering)
fatidical: prophetic
fubsy: short and stout, squat
griseous: streaked or mixed with grey, somewhat grey
malison: a curse
mansuetude: gentleness or mildness
muliebrity: the condition of being a woman
niddering: cowardly
nitid: bright, glistening
olid: foul-smelling
oppugnant: combative, antagonistic, or contrary
periapt: a charm or amulet
recrement: waste matter, refuse, dross
roborant: tending to fortify or increase strength
skirr: a whirring or grating sound, as of the wings of birds in flight
vaticinate: to foretell, prophesy
vilipend: to treat or regard with contempt

You'll need to look for yourself to find out which ones were reprieved.

Poetica featured John Clarke. Listen if you can, but if you can't read the transcript!

Finally, on a lighter (to some minds), note By Design
broadcast a segment about the history of mail order catalogues. There's no transcript of this one so you'll have to listen or download the audio while it's available.

08 February 2009

Heat and fire

Bushfires have caused huge loss of life and property damage in Victoria.

As I post it appears that at least 65 people have died and 600 homes been destroyed . This figure may well be exceeded.

After almost a fortnight of extreme heat in Adelaide spanning late January and early February without any major fires I'd assumed that the worst was over. This may have been true for South Australia, but it was not for Victoria where a cocktail of high temperatures and high winds wrought destruction yesterday and overnight.

I, like many others in southern Australia, have been uncomfortable in the heat of the last two weeks but seeing what has happened to so many people in Victoria has put my discomfort into perspective. It is trivial in comparison to their sufferings. My sympathies to them and condolences to those who have lost family and friends.