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,

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