Why Comcast Should Carry Al Jazeera

We deserve the most comprehensive information — even if that includes a little America bashing

Comcast carries  more than 500 channels, catering to every interest from sports to news to weather to cooking to nature to lifestyle to kids to soaps to NASCAR to sci fi to Congress to comedy to cartoons to jewelry to travel to food to video games to retirement to shopping to classic movies to independent movies to women-in-peril movies to …

What Comcast — or any other major cable or satellite company in the United States — does not carry is Al Jazeera English, the corporate sibling to Arab-language Al Jazeera, based in Qatar.

Who cares? We all should.

Regardless of your feelings about AJE’s obvious Middle East, Islamic slant, the network has had the most comprehensive, on-the-ground coverage of the continuing anti-government protests in Egypt, by far. It has been on the story live and non-stop.

Dave Marash, former Washington anchor of AJE and a 16-year Nightline veteran, labels Al Jazeera English as “must-see TV.” For most Americans, however, the only place to catch it is on the Web, where it is streamed live.

Capitalizing on its current high visibility, AJE is stepping up its lobbying efforts with all the major U.S. cable and satellite companies. It’s scheduled to meet with Comcast later this month, sources confirm.

Marash, among others, says it’s only a matter of time before AJE breaks onto somebody’s dance card.

“The logic of it is just too obvious. The product is too good, too significant, to not have a market in the U.S., given the complete abdication of American networks and cable channels from actually covering international news.”

Marash, 68, joined AJE prior to its November 2006 launch. Two years later, he left in anger, publicly accusing the network of anti-American bias in its coverage. “I was right to go and they were glad I left,” he says in retrospect. “That bridge is toast.”

Still, Marash remains bullish on AJE and its prospects here.

The current situation is “tragic,” he says. “It plays into the ignorance of American viewers, most of whom are clueless as to what the world thinks and why. It’s very harmful to America’s effectiveness and stature in the world.”

Comcast, tear down this wall.