Pacifica radio will carry some Al Jazeera English news stories listen12/06/10 SeÃ¡n Kinane
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You might not be able to watch it on cable television yet, but soon, you could hear it on community radio.
The international news channel Al Jazeera English and Pacifica radio announced a partnership today where news from Al Jazeera reporters will be broadcast on the five Pacifica stations and soon, on Pacifica affiliates like WMNF. Today we spoke with Pacifica Foundation executive director Arlene Engelhardt, who used to be a programmer on the Womenâ€™s Show on 88.5 FM.
"Today Pacifica is pleased to announce that we will be carrying Al Jazeera English news broadcasts on three of our Pacifica stations and after the first of the year it will be on all five stations. Beginning today KPFA will carry the very first broadcast of Al Jazeera English on Pacifica and then tomorrow the first broadcast will be carried by New York, WBAI, and Houston, KPFT. We're really pleased to add this line up of thought provoking programming that we think represents information coming from a new source, an independent news media that provides global news from a slightly different perspective. And Pacifica has had a long history of providing that kind of news coverage and we're proud to be a part of this effort, too."
You say a different perspective, what does that mean? I know they're sponsored by a government, so it's not completely independent. Tell us a little bit more about Al Jazeera.
"Well, Al Jazeera English, editorially, is completely independent. The reporters and the news editors have complete freedom to present the news as they see it. But, obviously, as a service that comes with a background in the Middle East, they come at the news from a slightly different perspective than the news that we're hearing on most of the US media which is kind of predigested and pretty much all coming from the same point of view. I've done a lot of listening to Al Jazeera over the last few weeks and what comes through to me is an independence and, to me seemingly, unbiased. Obviously, none of us are totally unbiased, but coming at it at least from a different perspective and trying to present some of the issues that we don't get in the US media."
You say that the five Pacifica stations are going to air this newscast but it will also be available to Pacifica affiliates like WMNF, right?
"Yes it will, and that should be happening sometime in the next few weeks. We're making sure that everything goes smoothly and all the bugs are worked out, but we're going to be making it available to the 140 plus affiliates as well as the five Pacifica stations."
In some circles the name Al Jazeera has a negative connotation. They're known for broadcasting Bin Laden's speeches sometimes, his taped speeches. How do you plan on dealing with the certain attacks that are going to happen from the right regarding airing Al Jazeera in the US?
"What we're going to encourage people to do is to listen to the broadcast. We think that if you listen to the broadcast you'll realize that they are as unbiased as news can be and that they are presenting things from a different perspective. Some people talk about, 'well this is anti-Jewish', or anti- something else, and yet Al Jazeera has one of the largest international bureaus located in Israel, presenting things that include whatever Israeli points of view might be. So, we think that is important, but of course Al Jazeera English is totally developed in English and presented with a little bit more Western point of view than perhaps Al Jazeera Middle East."
Give us a little description then, of what to expect if you tune in to a Pacifica broadcast today and you hear the Al Jazeera newscast, how long is it? What types of stories will you be hearing?
"You'll be hearing stories of international importance which include things that are happening here in the United States. The broadcast is approximately 52 minutes long and the rest of the hour will be filled with a little bit of local news from the local stations. I'm just real proud of this and very happy to see this happening on Pacifica radio. As usual we're a leader in this. We're the first radio network in North America to be covering this and we think it's an important move forward."
The UK newspaper The Guardian is reporting that among the large cache of state department documents released last week by WikiLeaks is one that questions the editorial independence of Al Jazeera. In November 2009, one cable from the U.S. embassy said, â€œQatar will continue to use Al Jazeera as a bargaining tool to repair relationships with other countries, particularly those soured by Al Jazeera's broadcasts, including the United States.â€
Weâ€™ll bring you more on the partnership between Pacifica and Al-Jazeera, including what it means for 88.5 FM, in the coming weeks.