What can one say when one reads that the Obama White House has "discovered" how good Al Jazeera is - especially when compared with the appalling standard [!] of American TV and their so-called news coverage. Bear in mind as you read this piece that Americans do not have access to Al Jazeera. The Qatar-based network was thought to be too pro-Arab and therefore effectively "banned" by the Bush Administration from gracing American TV.
"If it weren’t for Al Jazeera, much of the unfolding Egyptian revolution would never have been televised. Its Arabic- and English-language channels have provided the most comprehensive coverage of any network in any language hands-down. Despite the Mubarak regime’s attempts to shut it down, Al Jazeera’s brave reporters and camera crews have persevered. Six Al Jazeera journalists were detained briefly on Monday, their equipment seized. The United States responded swiftly to their detention, with the State Department calling for their release. “We are concerned by the shutdown of Al Jazeera in Egypt and arrest of its correspondents,” State Department spokesperson PJ Crowley tweeted. “Egypt must be open and the reporters released.”
The Obama White House has been intently monitoring al Jazeera’s coverage of the Egyptian revolt. The network, already famous worldwide, is now a household name in the United States. Thousands of Americans—many of whom likely had never watched the network before—are livestreaming Al Jazeera on the Internet and over their phones. With a handful of exceptions, most US cities and states have no channel that broadcasts Al Jazeera. That’s because cowardly US cable providers refuse to grant the channel a distribution platform, largely for fear of being perceived as supporting or enabling a network that for years has been portrayed negatively by US officials.
For people who have followed Al Jazeera’s history with the United States, the fact that it is now perceived by the White House and the American public as a force for democracy and freedom is an ironic, some would say hypocritical, development. The contrast between Washington’s posture toward Al Jazeera from the Bush era to the Obama presidency could not be more stark."
AlterNet takes up the issue of access to Al Jazeera by Americans:
"Grim notes the irony of the fact that Egypt's blackout of the Internet is scorned here in the U.S., but at the same time cable companies are refusing to offer Americans Al Jazeera because of "political and commercial reasons" that amount to basically a bunch of xenophobic hooey.
The good news is that you can find the programming on Al Jazeera's website, where they stream live -- and apparently 60 percent of their traffic right now is coming from the U.S. And the bottom of Grim's article lists several satellite TV stations and radio programs carrying some Al Jazeera English content."