American public says no to Al-Jazeera

Al-Jazeera International is facing new obstacles in its bid to break into the United States.

A new poll indicates that a majority of Americans – more than 53 per cent – are opposed to the idea.

Not only that— Americans, by two to one, think the US Government should oppose giving the new channel access to the US media market. The poll was conducted last week for Accuracy in Media, a a conservative-leaning media watchdog group.

For more than a year Al-Jazeera International, the English language sister to the Arabic Al-Jazeera, has been trying to set up a satellite and cable network in the US.

It has hired several well-known journalists to work for the proposed new service, among them David Frost.

Producers have also been hired from the BBC and CNN and expensive new studios are under construction in Washington. But everywhere there have been obstacles. Up to now no satellite or cable system in the US has signed up to carry the service.

A spokesman for AIM, explaining it’s opposition to the Arabic news service's expansion into the US, said that Al Jazeera International has been tainted by its association with the channel that regularly broadcasts propaganda from the terrorist killers of almost 3,000 people on 11 September 2001.

He said: "This poll backs up our contention that American people don’t want to take a risk on a new channel bringing more terrorist propaganda into the US media market and inciting more anti-American violence.”

A breakdown of the poll shows that of the 53 per cent opposed to the project, 38 per cent are adamantly against the idea.

The only group not strongly opposed are young adults, aged 18 to 24, of whom 42 per cent suggested the new network should be given a try.

But 63 per cent of older Americans, those over 65, were adamantly opposed. By sex, men were slightly less opposed to the project than women – 32 per cent v 25 per cent.

The poll takers admit that over 15 per cent of those polled had no strong feelings about the project – and expressed no opinion one way or the other – but this was attributed to the fact that very few Americans have, as yet, been able to watch Al Jazeera and don’t have much first-hand knowledge of the programmes it carries.

As a footnote AIM recalled that Al-Jazeera was launched in 1996 with a $150 million donation from the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa Al Thani, who still supports the network to the tune of between $30 and $50 million a year.

Its main offices are still in Qatar, but there are plans for new broadcast centres for the new English language channel in Athens, London, Kuala Lumpur and Washington.

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