Well I am sure all of you know about Al Gore selling his “Current TV” cable channel to Al Jazeera News. It was a pretty simple deal and Al Gore got rid of a misguided project he never should have gotten involved in. Operating a cable channel is not easy….Oprah is finding that out now with “OWN”.
Time-Warner, upon being notified that Al Jazeera had bought the channel cancelled the contract it had with “Current TV”. This was not due to any altruistic motives on Time Warner’s part. This was done for pure business reasons. You see, within the contract “Current TV” had with Time Warner was a little clause that allowed the cable carrier to cancel its contract if the ownership of “Current TV” was to ever change hands. So it didn’t matter who bought the low rated cable channel the contract would have been cancelled regardless. This allows Time Warner to renegotiate a new contract that is much more favorable to them. In other words they make more money.
According to a piece in the New York Times, Al Jazeera, “Rather than simply use Current to distribute its English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera plans to create a new channel, called Al Jazeera America, based in New York. Roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States, while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.”
As a result of the sale Al Jazeera plans to open up a US branch in New York City. It will hire over 300 people and this studio will act as the anchor point for it’s new “Al Jazeera English”. As it stands now most American TV News networks buy footage and video feeds from Al Jazeera to use on their nightly feeds. They are also a solid channel in England, Germany and several other European countries. In the countries of the Middle East, except Israel, Al Jazeera is the number one network watched.
With that in mind I am sure Time Warner will negotiate a new contract with “Al Jazeera America” to take the slot “Current TV” once occupied. This will make the Middle East news organization available to over the 100 million Time Warner subscribers. After reading several news articles and blogs it appears many people seem to have a problem with this …..I don’t.
For me there is no gray area here. The First Amendment makes it very clear…
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So by denying Al Jazeera access to the US market this action can be effectively argued as a violation of our First Amendment. Whether it is or not will be for Constitutional lawyers to decide but either we’re a country where we cherish and protect our freedoms 24/7 or a country of hypocrites that picks the time and place to invoke them.
Besides what do we have to fear from them? Their one sided broadcasting style? US News Networks have been doing that for years. Their propaganda? If you know it’s propaganda in the first place it can’t hurt anyone. What we may gain however is some insight into a corner of the world that is still as alien to us as any life we may find on Mars or the moon. We have wasted so many opportunities in the past that have cost us dearly can we really afford to squander another?