By Brigitte L. Nacos
Since the upheaval in the Arab world began, the Arab satellite network Al Jazeera and the British Broadcasting Corporation’s BBC World News offered the most extensive and compelling reporting from Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, other countries in the region, and, of course, extensive coverage of reactions throughout the world.
While most American cable and satellite subscribers have access to the BBC, very few can watch Al Jazeera. Only people in Washington, D.C., Toledo, Ohio, and Burlington, Vermont, decide for themselves whether they want to watch Al Jazeera—or not.
For the rest of us, companies like Time Warner Cable, Comcast Cable, Cablevision, and others decide for us; they censor what you and I can watch and what we cannot watch.
Since all of these companies offer hundreds of channels to their subscribers, the scarcity-of-channels justification is not convincing--particularly not, when you examine the channel line-up that is offered.
My Cablevision line-up, for example, includes 4 South-Asian, 4 Russian, 3 Korean, 3 global Chinese, 2 Filipino, 1 German, 1 Italian, 1 Polish, and many other ethnic channels.
Not Al Jazeera or any other Arab language channel; and, most importantly, not Al Jazeera English.
Since the exclusion of Al Jazeera is so wide-spread, one wonders whether the relentless attacks on the network by the George W. Bush administration explains the united corporate front against Al Jazeera.
When selecting TV-channels and programs people in liberal democracies should have access to an expansive marketplace of ideas—that is the rationale for the First Amendment’s freedom of press and freedom of expression guarantee. People who have the right to vote governments in or out are deemed intelligent enough to separate fact and fiction, truth and lies, balanced and biased reporting.