Thursday, November 16, 2006

Land of the free....thought ???

The arabic TV News programme Al-Jazeera launched its English language version into Europe yesterday and in an effort to shit-stir at lunchtime our local Radio Leeds programme ran a poll of listeners asking if the news channel should be banned - fortunately the result was an overwhelming "of course not you fuckwits".

We like our news to have at least two flavours and here in the UK we have lots of choice...

The BBC - the bastion of truth and honesty the world over, except here in the UK where every month someone accuses the BBC of being too right wing, then too left wing, then over zealous in its selective employment of black people, or asian people, or homosexuals, or not as the case may be that month - as a public funded broadcaster it has to be seen to be neutral and if you listened to the critics it hardly ever is, still, its the BBC.

ITN News - the commercial side of broadcasting in the UK, funded entirely from crumbs of advertising revenue that the Rupert Murdoch empire missed or let fall to the floor, ITN News spends too much of its time trying to compete with the BBC instead of doing its own thing which sometimes results in unfortunate incidents such as their main news crew headed by vetran braodcaster Terry Lloyd being killed on one of the first days of the Iraq invasion when they went ahead of the allied forces without authorisation or armed backup and got themselves entangled in the crossfire - all in the quest for an exclusive report over and above what the BBC could garner from behind the tanks. ITN is usually seen as a poor mans BBC.

Sky News - the first UK broadcaster to present a 24 hour news channel and which revolutionised tv news in the UK, funded by the Murdoch global tv empire its seen as the channel of choice for anyone who wants the news NOW rather than wait for the BBC to catch up and ITN to arrive a few days later - it was Sky News that we switched on this saturday when we got a text message from our daughter in Trafalger Square to say that something was going on there - switched the tv on in panic and there she was in Trafalger Square at the rememberence service - really must explain to our daughter what rememberence day is all about.

The American broadcasters - the likes of NBC, ABC et all who sneak onto spare channels on our satellite providers for that exclusive USA-only coverage of world events - want to know what that nuclear explosion in Iran was all about this morning ? Switch on your choice of American News channels and find out what all the obscure college basketball scores were last night instead.

The problem with all of those channels is of course that we only get the one point of view, our point of view, our western point of view - watch an Isreali move to rid Gaza of arabs and you'll watch the coverage from behind an Isreali tank and you'll get the sanitised Isreali version of what happened and you might suspect that its not the full story, but you have nowehere else to see or hear the other version of events.

Until now.

Now you have Al-Jazeera to tune in to.

Presented by European correspondants the news channel provides the same stories that the western news channels provide, but their cameras show the action from the other side of the fence, and they pull no punches, and at last we can now get two often very obtuse and polarised reports and most importantly - MAKE OUR OWN MINDS UP.

There is one tiny little glitch in the news though - despite being available now to a 40 million European audience no American broadcasters have stepped forward to carry the channel yet, land of the free thought ?

Not yet it seems.

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