Which media network has more accredited journalists in Washington, D.C.? Is it CBS News or Al Jazeera English?
The answer is guaranteed to surprise. The tarnished “Tiffany Network” still edges the Arab satellite TV upstart by a 129-to-105 margin, according to Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The handwriting, however, is on the wall. It’s a good bet those numbers will flip in Pew’s next survey.
Despite the Qatar-based network’s robust D.C. presence, AJE is getting squat when it comes to access to America’s cable networks. That may change during the Obama Administration. As America’s global standing on the world’s stage diminishes, it is ever more important to get different perspectives on global events. AJE offers one of those angles.
But when it comes to PR, AJE, which is available in more than 100 countries, is beyond clueless about winning friends and allies in the U.S. Putting a spin on a line (“I Want My MTV”) from the Dire Straits classic, “Money for Nothing,” AJE has launched a website, “I Want Al Jazeera English.” The site urges visitors to email their local cable systems to demand that AJE gets some channel love.
The site includes a “hits and myths” section that clearly shows that AJE just doesn’t get in on the PR front. For instance, AJE wants you to know that it has given more airtime to American officials than Osama bin Laden. That’s hardly encouraging since OBL has been holed up in a cave in Pakistan since 9/11. AJE wants to dispel the notion that it is the “beheading” station, assuring tender viewers it “has never will and will never broadcast a beheading.” Welcome to the 21st Century.
AJE says it is not anti-American, another no-brainer since Presidents Clinton and Carter, General Petraeus, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Homeland Security’s Michael Chertoff have been on the air. AJE says it is not anti-semitic because Israel’s Yes TV dropped the BBC and put it on the air. Jerusalem is AJE’s biggest bureau though one suspects Palestinians get more favorable play than Israel in their standoff.
AJE’s core problem is the perception that it is a “lite” version of the “incendiary” Arab language programming. Its website admits that AJE is a “separate channel from AJ Arabic and offers a different perspective” based on the “Arabic channel’s heritage of fearless reporting.” That is why AJE is not making headway here. We don’t want to be taken as suckers.