Al-Jazeera English Launch Faces Hurdles in US

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:23pm EDT

( - The worldwide launch of the English-language version of al-Jazeera, scheduled to take place Wednesday, has been hindered by the network's inability to secure a high-profile U.S. carrier and by efforts on the part of conservatives to block the station.

"The launching of the English channel offers the chance to reach out to a new audience that is used to hearing the name of al-Jazeera without being able to watch it or to understand its language," network director general Wadah Khanfar said in a release.

Khanfar said the new channel "will provide the same ground-breaking news and impartial and balanced journalism to the English-speaking world."

The English version of the Arab network will have broadcast centers in Qatar, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, London and Washington, D.C., but interested viewers in the United States may have trouble getting access to its programs.

Al-Jazeera International will be available in the U.S. on the satellite network Globecast WorldTV, which calls itself "the leading source for international programming via satellite in America." Globecast is a subsidiary of France Telecom.

Anyone with about $200 worth of the right equipment will be able to access the broadcast free of charge from Globecast. About half of Globecast's more than 200 stations are "free-to-air," meaning viewers with the right equipment can access the programming without a subscription charge.

Globecast is also making the feed available to U.S. cable providers, but vice president for global communications Robert Marking told Cybercast News Service he knew of no agreements between al-Jazeera and major U.S. cable providers to carry the channel as of yet.

Among those in the U.S. opposed to al-Jazeera's English-language launch is a group that accuses the network of being "anti-American" and "primarily known as a mouthpiece for al-Qaeda."

Accuracy in Media (AIM), a conservative media watchdog, is behind Stop al-Jazeera, an online campaign to halt the spread of the network and its new international thrust.

According to AIM Editor Cliff Kincaid, al-Jazeera has a "well documented record of collaborating with terrorist groups" like al Qaeda and the Islamic Army of Iraq.

Kincaid told Cybercast News Service that broadcasting al-Jazeera in the U.S. would be the "equivalent of letting Tokyo Rose broadcast into the United States during World War II," referring to anti-U.S. English-language radio propaganda disseminated by Imperial Japan during the war.

"If we lose the war there [in communication] like we did in Vietnam, we're going to lose the war on the battlefield," Kincaid said. "The enemy lies, and they distort, and they deceive, and there's no reason on earth why we should accommodate them."

A September poll conducted by AIM found that 52 percent of Americans oppose al-Jazeera International's launch in the United States, while 29 percent support it.

Additionally, 55 percent of respondents wanted the U.S. government to oppose the network's U.S. launch while 27 percent thought the government should support it.

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