Wednesday, May 30, 2007

In Praise of Al Jazeera

I hope you're sitting down, because I am going to do something very unexpected. On Monday I was flicking through the channels on SKY and got to Al Jazeera. I had assumed it was just Arab propaganda, but boy was I wrong. I sat transfixed for an hour as I watched story after story about world affairs without a hint of any kind of bias. This wasn't your typical soundbite reporting, it was indepth stuff from around the world. Several of the reporters were recognisable from Sky or the BBC and seemed to have been given a new lease of life. I guess it is the sort of thing BBC World might do, but as you can't get BBC World in this country I wouldn't know. I'll be tuning into Al Jazeera regularly from now on.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

BBC World is just as leftie as BBC in the UK. It's just even more repetitive and incompetently produced. Think News 24 without the ... ahem! .... dynamism.

Ed said...

I expect that such an unbiased source will soon be declared to be plotting the overthrow of our democratically elected socialist government and will have its licence revoked.

After all John Cruddas and his ilk think that it's acceptable in Venezuela so why not here?

Whiffler said...

I've seen BBC World - first occasion I was in Switzerland. As a lifelong fan of World Service Radio, I had hoped for distraction during a period of illness in the hotel.

Alas - BBC World is, quite simply, dire. Adverts, trails, links, jingles, weather - and precious little of consequence or interest.

Bizarrely, they don't seem able to show English football snippets - merely announce scores and show tables. A more complete coverage is reserved for Spanish/Italian/German matches.

I found myself drawn to CNN as their coverage was merely indifferent. I would welcome Al Jazeera, but would prefer the BBC to get its act together.

Scotsman said...

Al Jazeera is thinking TV not the showbiz guff pumped out of London.

If you want information or education watch Al Jazeera Sky Channel 518 or close by.

If you want entertainment try Sky News or BBC 24

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

Any weather stories about "it being the most average May since records began"?

Have a feeling the BBC won't be mentioning how average the weather in May 2007 has been.

Unless of course average weather and wet bank holiday weekends can be blaimed on global warming.

Anonymous said...

Only just found it ,your slow Iain ,BBC World is just like it's radio counterpart ,all downhill soon as you turn to the channel ,it's suprising what's happening in the world ,once you get away from the BBC.

Cranmer said...

Hmmm...

His Grace thought that Al Jazeera was simply where BBC journalists went after they had been trained at the expense of the British taxpayer...

A said...

Anything must be better than the "news" I watched whilst in the US. I spent one morning listening to a piece about how good it is to keep rabbits, and didn't actually learm anything from their news. At all.
So for all you might complain about the BBC, is's actually very good in comparison to other things!

Anonymous said...

Enjoy it while you can. Without Tone's restraining influence, George will probably soon terminate, with extreme prejudice, its command of the Middle Eastern airwaves!

Cassandrina said...

I discovered Al Jazeera some months ago and was surprised how balanced and professional it is - far better than any of its competitors - I was shocked to read how many pro-Mugabe African supporters there are in its dialogue on Zimbabwe. BBC TV home or abroad is now dire and unbalaced. Radio 3 is still superb in many instances while Radio 4 has been taken over by the loony liberal left but still has some redeeming features on proper investigation and not ambulance chasing.
World Radio in spite of serious meddling by BBC management has managed to keep a decent distance from its poor home services, and still has considerable global respect.

forthurst said...

What would happen to the Western Media if the the specific clique that is conspicuous by its absence on Al Jazeera were removed? (Not meaning you, Iain)

Simon said...

al javvera is great remember watching a show about a iraqi kurd journalist going home after about 15 years away. Amazing stuff because he was just in homes and local area. Interviewing family and people he grew up with. So really had a more real feel to it then the western TV.

At the end he confronted a guy (was digging the grave for the journo's mother who had died reason he was back along with voting) who had dobbed him into the army and resulted in him being tortured. He asked the guy why he did it. And he explained they had tortured him until he dobbed him in. harroring stuff. And real none of this green zone stuff.

Also amazing the attitude to oil they had. Most wished they had no oil in around them because they though if they did not everyone would leave them alone and they would have an independent state

Sabretache said...

"I sat transfixed for an hour as I watched story after story about world affairs without a hint of any kind of bias"

And that of course is why George Bush floated the idea of bombing its HQ with His Toniness. Can't have solid unbiased information about world affairs being broadcast in the Land of the Free now can we?. - And two British citizens are currently serving prison terms for trying to tell us about it.

jilted john said...

having lived abroad for 13 years let me tell you BBC World is a disastrous channel. EVERY programme is a climate change propaganda broadcast, its unreal. A shameful waste of taxpayers money and does nothing for our international reputation.

The Stoat said...

Thoroughly agree. I enjoy Al Jazeera a lot. I hope doesn't run out of money and get bounced in favour of infotainment journalism.

If some of the more vocal critics against Al Jazeera actually sat themselves down to watch it - the talk shows, the extended packages and documentaries - they'd see an excellent example of professional journalism. Long mahy it continue.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you've discovered it - it is absolutely excellent. As an aid worker, I like the fact that it doesn't have a "North-South" approach to it's reporting - it's the only credible 'global' channel that doesn't, including BBC World.

Chris Paul said...

I'm surprised you're surprised to be honest. They hooked some excellent UK and US talent. Interesting to see how the Dale-ees turn on BBC World instead of considering your main point which is that a station rocket attacked several times by the Bushy one and the subject of that D-Noticed (but Mirrored) leak is actually excellent and unbiased. Unlike RCTV in Venezuela which I've blogged about here and will blog about some more. There's free press and there's free press is all I'm saying here for now.

AJ have that ex-Tribune, ex-LP NEC chappie in their US team do they not? What's his name?

Desperate Dan said...

Hear Hear. Al Jazeera is the sort of balanced broadcasting all other broadcasters should aspire to.
The last time I saw BBC World they had decided to present the UK to the world as a nation whose only interests were rape, murder, paedaphilia and binge drinking. The only light relief was their endlessly repeated trails until they became unwatchable after the 10th time in an hour.

Anonymous said...

The world looks strange when not seen through the cracked lens of our MSM. Strange but true.

Ross F said...

Most of the criticisms of what Al Jazeera broadcast, have been based on the content of their Arabic output, no one seriously disputes that their English language channel is fine.

wrinkled weasel said...

Oh and the other thing you might have missed: Mafeking got relieved.

Heidi said...

Ross F is exactly right. Al Jazeera's English-language service provides sensible, balanced, interesting content. It also provides false reassurance to concerned Western liberals (in the broadest sense) like yourself. The Arabic output in the middle east is a completely different matter, and contains a high proportion of anti-Western and anti-Jewish propaganda. In my opinion it is the single biggest reason why the battle for hearts and minds is being so comprehensively won by Al Qaeda and the like.

Guido Faux said...

Ross, Heidi.

Links to translated content please.

Any Arabic speakers out there concur with this analysis?

One would assume the same goes for english.aljazeera.net and www.aljazeera.net. Should be easy to verify using google translation.

Ed said...

There's free press and there's free press

You mean as long as it's "our free press" it's OK? As long as no-one mentions the sexed-up dodgy dossier which sent our men and women to their deaths then everything's hunky-dory?

How is tractor production these days anyway?

Anonymous said...

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said... 11:17 AM

Yes, exactly so, if not a tad colder than usual. However Auntie will not mention this. It would upset Greenpeace - and we can't do that can we?

Anonymous said...

As a full time expat, the thing that strikes me about BBC World is that the (endlessly repetitive)news programmes cover events in just about every country in the world - except the UK. Rarely is there anything about what is going on there. As a UK expat I know far more of what is happening in Gaza tan I do in Lonndon (or anywhere else in the country for that matter!). Thank goodness the soon-to-be Prime Minister has not found a way for us expats to have to pay the licence fee to receive this mainly left wing propaganda!

CNN output is similar in that their news stories go round and round, but at least they do give their US citizens living or travelling outside the USA some coverage of what is happening back home and if something important is happening anywhere in the world they instantly give it full time coverage with a reporter on the spot - and without constant interruptions from self important "anchors" who have to have their three-pennyworth every two minutes.

Al Jazeera in English, which has only recently been made available where I live, is a breath of fresh air with competent and usually well informed (or briefed)reporters covering many stories from both sides and in some depth - and without assuming that their audience is completely thick.

achilles said...

Thank God we can't get BBC world in this country because when I watched it in Sicily, it was the most boring TV channel I have ever seen in my entire life.

Jim Jay said...

Couldn't agree more. Al J is really refreshing and although I expected it to be the mirror image of some of the propaganda we get over here it was a real attempt at balanced news reporting.

Guthrum said...

Al Jazeera is journalism as it should be, the BBC seem to have forgotten that anything else happens outside of Washington or London. France 24 is bit amateurish, constantly fluffing lines missing queues, makes 18 Doughty Street look slick. There is a Russian 24 Hour News programme good in parts but a bit obsessed with Oil & Gas. For truly dire TV its the USA everytime. If its not happening in your state buddy it ain't happening.

andy said...

Al Jazeera's website is good, too.

There is life beyond these blighted shores.

young pretender said...

Exactly! Compare this succint, broad-ranging news story On Wolfowitz's successor with the bloated rubbish on the Today programme.

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E41C868C-7249-490A-8B7C-2725DAD6B832.htm

David Brain said...

Ian,

There's a fantasic essay by Wadah Khanfa, the Director General of Al Jazeera in a really interesting book called Global Voices which was put together by another interviewee of yours Ricahrd Sambrook. I for one would love to see 18 Doughty Street interview Wadah Khanfa. My book review with his take on the infamous "tapes issue" is here for what it's worth:
http://www.sixtysecondview.com/?p=129

CooCoo said...

I think someone might have mentioned this but its true that the people at al-jazeera ('the island') are mostly people trained at the BBC. I wouldn't say it was unbiased, just certaily less boring, like Fox News, a necessary balance to CNN and the BBC.


I have to say that as an ex-pat I'm always embarrassed by the World Service, especially its obsession with Asia. Can't these 'reporters' go on pointless missions of self discovery in their own time. I want political analysis. French channels are much better, they actually show people with points of view.

Unfortunately all enlish language news channels, be they international or not, are employing too many egotistic reporters. I tried to watch the news yesterday but all i got was BBC info about its next Asia today show and CNN's Larry King on a story about a reporter who was in an explosion in Iraq. They really see themselves as heroes in 'the most important journalism story in the world today'. According to them, anyway. The rest of us wouldn't know with figures like more reporters in Gaza than in the whole of Africa.

Anonymous said...

So Simon, who said we were doing gibberish today?

Anonymous said...

BBC World is as every one on this posting has stated absolutely appalling ...If it is an advert for the quality of the BBC then it should be put out of its misery...If i'm abroad and staying at a hotel I always hope it will have Sky or CNN...When I find its BBC world I despair

Anonymous said...

Amazed they didn't mention Wolfowitz's successor is a rabid Jewish neo-con! No change there then!

Anonymous said...

It is very good, I watched with some predjuce too but found it better than other 24hour News channels too...

Reactionary Snob said...

I've always found the coverage excellent as well, Iain. I tend to have that on in the office at home and occasionally flick it on to BBC News or CNN just for some contrast.

RS

Frank Lee Speaking said...

For £70 you can buy a portable satellite dish and receiver from Maplin that is pre-tuned to a satellite that gives you Al Jazeera in English and/or Arabic plus the apalling BBC World station and a mass of very interesting western European and north African stations, some in English but most in mother tongues - good for "world" music as well as news. No subscription requirred. You can also re-tune it to eight other satellites. Say goodbye to Sky!

Benjamin said...

BBC World is not a shameful waste of taxpayers money, no matter how dire it is, because it is not paid for either by direct txation or by the license fee.

Benjamin said...

BBC World is a bit dull, but it does show some interesting documentaries from time to time.

Anonymous said...

sometimes you are slow to catch on iain!!

Rachel Joyce said...

I have to admit that I don't watch Al Jazeera (English language), but I would like to ask 2 questions:
1. Is it unbiased in regard to Israel?
2. What about the Arab language version - is that unbiased too, or does the English language version take the heat off the Arab version.
The arabic channel has shown some pretty grotesque images of dead Americans & English hostages and soldiers, and I understand some other reporting that we would find unpleasant. Perhaps this is just a different set of values/ taste, but is the English language version therefore dumbed down on all fronts?

Iain Dale said...

Rachel, Stephen Pollard certainly thinks so http://www.spectator.co.uk/stephenpollard/31285/al-jazeera-english-the-best-by-far.thtml

Paul said...

I have a problem with trusting any of the Fourth Estate ! And Al Jazeera ? No way !!

Jeremy Jacobs said...

There's enough pro-Arab stuff on the BBC.

"I discovered Al Jazeera some months ago and was surprised how balanced and professional it is - far better than any of its competitors"

Let's see what Al-Jazeera has to say about the 40th anniversary of re-unification of Jerusalem next week!

The Remittance Man said...

Iain,

As other correspondents have noted, BBC World is not the World Service. It's biased, patchy and chock full of advert breaks. The version shown here in South Africa seems to be more suited to Asia, especially the business reporting.

Sadly, the local satellite broadcaster doesn't offer al-J, although we can get Central China News and what I suspect is Wahabi TV - it comes from Saudi and seems to consist entirely of chaps with beards talking in mosques but since they all speak arabic I haven't really got a clue.

I tend to watch Sky, especially late at night when they switch to showing Fox. I know it's got a distinct starboard list but at least I don't end up throwing things at the set.

El Dave. said...

Worth pointing out that al-Jazeera is state funded through the personage of the Emir of Qatar.

Mark Dowling said...

I think BBC World is a great idea but if they're going to interrupt programmes every few minutes then run advertising or something rather than endless previews of shows, and put the proceeds into some better programming.

That said, while on holiday in Varadero during the VT shootings it would have been good to have had access to BBCW or CBC Newsworld to provide a little more distance in the news compared to the mawkishness exhibited by the hotel-provided CNN in the face of the suffering of their fellow citizens.