“Qatar Advances Plans To Privatize Al-Jazeera: U.S. Has Criticized Arab TV Network,” by Shankar Vedantam, Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49759-2005Jan30.html, 31 January 2005 (from Collounsbury).
Great news out of the Gulf.
The government of Qatar is pushing forward with plans to privatize al-Jazeera, the popular and controversial Arab television network that has often drawn the ire of U.S. administration officials, a network spokesman said.
al Jazeera’s prominance, and the forthcoming privitization, are both fallout from the Iraqi Big Bang Strategy
Details of the plan are yet to be worked out and await a feasibility report that should be completed in coming months, said Jihad Ballout, a spokesman in the Qatari capital of Doha. Al-Jazeera is highly popular in the Arab world but has repeatedly drawn criticism from the Bush administration about its coverage of the war in Iraq and other hot-button issues in the Middle East.
Pressure from U.S. officials has caused the government of Qatar, which bankrolls al Jazeera, to accelerate the spinoff, according to a report yesterday in the New York Times, which quoted an unnamed senior Qatari official.
This news is wonderful. While al Jazeera is anti-American, it also is the first news channel in the Arab world that freely criticizes everybody. We need to create real political debates in the Greater Middle East, and outlets like al Jazeera are part of this. It is problematic, however, that al Jazeera does not face market pressures and is owned by an ally. Allowing private investors, even if they are Saudi petrocrats, to run a free Arab news network is a great step forward.
In the Greater Middle East, we are the revolutionary aggressor and the dictatorial regimes that made up the status quo are the enemy. We have momentum and freedom on our side. Let’s keep going.