It looks as if Al Jazeera is coming to a TV near you. Maybe as close as your living room, if you have cable.
Last week, the CRTC approved Al Jazeera English (AJE), the Qatar-based English-language version of the most popular news network in the Muslim world, and the cable companies are lining up to carry the signal.
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This is in marked contrast to the last round, in 2003, when its sister network, AJA (Al Jazeera Arab), tried for a licence in Canada and was vigorously opposed. This time, there were 2,600 submissions to the CRTC in favour. What a difference a few years makes.
I don’t know if, as Al Jazeera claims, that the AJE and AJA are really two different organizations. I mean, really. But according to the CRTC, AJE “will expand the diversity of editorial points of view in the Canadian broadcasting system.” And we’re all for that.
Of course, if you stop to think about it for a minute, that seems to imply that there is no one standard, grade-A version of the truth, and the only way we can snag that elusive commodity is to net it with a diversity of editorial points of view.
If news organizations such as Al Jazeera (and to be fair, Fox News, the BBC, Global, NBC, CBC, etc.) were all as objective as they claim to be, wouldn’t they all be broadcasting the same, true stories?
And how far will we go with this diversity of editorial opinion notion? If TTVN (Taliban TV Network) wanted access to the nation’s living rooms, how would the CRTC respond?
Let me point out quickly that I’m pretty much in favour of the AJE application. I know its managing director Tony Burman pretty well. We used to work together at the CBC and spent many shifts trying to figure what to put on or what not to put on The Journal. There was nothing in his demeanour to indicate terrorist tendencies. Once in a while he got a little grumpy, but that might have been the takeout we were forced to consume.
Still, if objectivity and truth exist totally in the eye of the beholder, will we ever really have any basis for agreement?
This problem is nothing new. In fact, it originated in the Middle East, even before the invention of television. It was called the Tower of Babel: Mass confusion, 24/7.
Is it really so different today?