Aljazeera Sell-Off Comes Closer

Qatar draws up plan to sell off al-Jazeera,” by Jane Kinninmont, The Guardian, 27 April 2005, http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1470981,00.html (from Democratic Underground).
Wednesday April 27, 2005

Following up my thoughts on Free Arabi Media and Free Egyptian Media, the privitization of al Jazeera is coming closer…

The Gulf state of Qatar is considering privatising its satellite TV channel, al-Jazeera, because of pressure from the US and a de facto advertising boycott by Arab countries offended by its critical coverage.

Reporters at the station fear that if the channel is privatised commercial pressures could force it to tone down its coverage.

Good. On the one hand, it makes no sense to subsidize a media outlet that encourages rebellion on war. On the other…

Some say the station represents a big step forward for Arab democracy, which Washington advocates. Mouafac Harb, director of al-Jazeera’s less popular US-funded rival, al-Hurra, said: “Al-Jazeera has hijacked the role of the mosque as the primary source of information and views. Al-Jazeera is the only political process in the Middle East.

In a region where there is intense anti-US sentiment a private-sector al-Jazeera could well be more critical of the superpower.

Exactly right. Al Jazeera retards actual political debate in the Greater Middle East, because it looks at everything from an old-school secular Sunni Arab Nationalist perspective. Why? That is no longer a popular political philosophy in the Arab Middle East. Allow political discourse to develop, don’t try to pre-empt the emergence of real popular voices because they might be more “critical,” allow Arabs to have freedom too. The privitization of al Jazeera is a good step to those goals.

Update: Doug Petch weighs in

Given that al Jazeera has been plagued by controversy surrounding it’s coverage of events in Iraq, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for Qatar to move to sever its official ties to the network. Of course, I’m not naive enough to believe that they won’t see increased pressure to avoid stepping on toes with their reporting once they lose the protection Qatar’s Government. Nor will I be surprised should the network adopt a decidely more anti-US tone in its coverage. But, while some of the fears expressed in the article are no doubt well founded, if the network is putting out a credible product it should have no problem surviving in a free market environment. If not, its demise will be no great loss.

Perfectly said.

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