Al Jazeera: paving the way for consultative committees

Finally Al Jazeera, one of the
world’s more professional — and refreshingly alt-American — news
sources will be available on Canadian television sets (for those who
don’t already watch on its Internet site). It’s about time.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission released its decision Thursday to approve Al Jazeera
for cable and satellite distribution. At times called “the Arab CNN,”
the news organization is based in Doha, Qatar; when its international
version launched three years ago Der Spiegel said it had “a self-conscious, sometimes excruciating, emphasis on being the non-Western voice.”

Previous efforts to bring Al Jazeera to Canadian TV sets were thwarted by opposition from the Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith Canada, and sundry others — The Toronto Star reported last spring
that it “was once condemned as “propaganda” by former U.S secretary of
defence Donald Rumsfeld (and) slammed by Jewish groups for airing
anti-Semitic views.” Worldwide, it’s been censored or banned outright in Arab jurisdictions for being critical of them. The Walrus Magazine recently headlined a story about Al Jazeera and Burman with this title: “The Most Hated Name in News.”

But as The Globe and Mail reported last June,
Tony Burman, the former CBC editor-in-chief who is now managing
director of Al Jazeera English, had proposed “a special consultative
committee to discuss the network’s on-air content every six months to
ensure that there are no major concerns.”

Imagine that, a “a
special consultative committee.” What a terrific idea! When the fuss
over Al Jazeera has died down, let’s have just such a committee for
other media distributed in Canada. Anyone want to nominate which news
organization should be first to get a “special consultative committee?”