Talking heads block Al-Jazeera TV in U.S.-Zucker
Millions of Americans have turned to Al-Jazeera for coverage of the crisis in Egypt, but for the vast majority, that has meant turning to the Internet rather than their televisions.
Why? Former NBC Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker has a theory — U.S. cable operators are afraid of the talk show backlash that would result if they carried the channel, viewed by some as having an anti-American bias.
“Some people would attack some of the distributors like Comcast and others who would carry it for being un-American for carrying Al-Jazeera,” said Zucker, who stepped down as CEO of NBC at the end of January when General Electric Co closed on its sale of a majority stake in the media operation to Comcast Corp. “That’s part of what the problem is, which is incredibly unfortunate.”
Al-Jazeera says some 3.5 million U.S. viewers have turned to its live Web feed since Egyptians took to the streets to call for the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled that country for three decades.
During an hour-long talk on the state of the media at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Zucker discussed the rivalry between NBC’s cable news channel MSNBC, which has carved out a left-leaning niche, and its main rival News Corp’s Fox News Channel, on the right.
But Zucker wouldn’t go so far as point the finger of blame at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox operation.
“One of the unfortunate things is that some of these channels we’ve been talking about would go after some of those distributors if they were to put Al-Jazeera on,” Zucker said. “That’s part of what’s behind this.”
For his part, the former NBC chief said he’d like to see Al-Jazeera on the air in the United States: “It’s another voice, I think it should be out there.”
(Photo: Reuters/Danny Moloshok)