This week while testifying before the U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Al Jazeera and dared to suggest that the constant fear-mongering, silly social networking, and misinformation featured on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC isn't the height of journalistic excellence.
Clinton said that the U.S. is losing the "information war" around the world, as English-language channels like Russia Today and CCTV are more popular than American news sources, Time reports. She went on to single out Al Jazeera, saying:
Al Jazeera has been the leader in that [it is] literally changing people's minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective... In fact viewership of al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it's real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you're getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.
Aside from her criticism of our own media, her comments on Al Jazeera were notable because several politicians have complained that the network spreads anti-American sentiment around the world.
Not that we'd know it. Though Al Jazeera English is available online, most Americans don't get the channel. The MarketWatch reports that executives from Al Jazeera English met with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision about carrying the network last week, but no deal has been made. The uprisings in the Middle East have piqued Americans' interest in the network, but the cable providers say they still aren't sure it will pull in enough viewers, as it "doesn't have the advantage of being owned by a large conglomerate." (For businesses, that may be a problem, but it as a viewer it actually makes the network more appealing.)
Cable providers say their reluctance to carry Al Jazeera is about business, but especially in light of the disturbing video of an anti-Muslim protest, it does seem like there could be more to the decision. Are we missing out on a Clinton-endorsed news network simply because cable providers fear Americans are too prejudiced for an Arab news channel?