Talking heads block Al-Jazeera TV in U.S.-Zucker

February 7, 2011

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.

Jeff Zucker

Jeff Zucker

“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)

3 comments

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Really, who needs Al-Jazeera with their Mideast slant/propaganda. I doubt they would get much of an audience here in America to make it worthwhile.

Posted by sgtjack | Report as abusive

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our news networks are so watered down and inane. We have very few real reporters any more. our beds are burning and the news networks are reporting on silly people and the stupid things they do. our news networks also seem to believe that we are all obsessed with sports. to see any world news, it is necessary to watch BBC or some other news agency. Watch Al-Jazeera English for a while before concluding that it is for propaganda. it is the only place I have found out about unrest and demonstrations in other countries. I was hoping Ted Turner would buy back CNN and fix it but that does not seem to be happening.

Posted by janmarieblue | Report as abusive

@sgtjack:

Really, YOU need Al-Jazeera. Unfortunate, however, that your limited understanding and narrow, arrogant world-view prevent you from enlightening yourself, or from seeking news (and not hate-fueled, nonsensical, tea-party rhetoric).

Unlike Fox, Al-Jazeera has standards. And they don’t have an “anti-American bias.” They’re just not afraid to tell you when your government makes mistakes (which is often). Because they do not stroke your ego or stoke your fear (like Hannity and his minions), you classify it as propaganda?

Maybe you ought to redefine news to “the obvious and erroneous affirmation of my American misconceptions.”

If you’d prefer a more traditional definition of “news” you can tune into Al-Jazeera and get some insight.

You need to overcome your own NewsCorp-inspired slant / propaganda. Fox doesn’t get much of an audience outside of the U.S. – people are far too intelligent.

Posted by DubyaDot | Report as abusive

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