In the CRTC public submission process approximately 2,600 letters and emails were in support of its application and only 40 opposed. Negative submissions claimed that AJE's reporting was abusive and unbalanced, for example, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Commission, in its decision, however, states that "while some parties raised concerns about the possible broadcast of abusive comment on the service, these allegations were not substantiated by evidence such as transcripts or tapes... Accordingly, there is nothing on the record of the current proceeding to lead the Commission to conclude that there is a serious risk that abusive comment will be broadcast on AJE."
With regard to a submission by Honest Reporting Canada (HRC) that charged that AJE's reporting is unbalanced, the Commission found "Israeli officials were given the opportunity to present their points of view on AJE. More generally, the Commission notes that balanced reporting would require a service to offer different points of view over a reasonable period of time, rather than having to present every point of view within one report or one program. Hence, evidence of six reports (i.e., the four clips plus the two reports cited by HRC) that were aired between October 2007 and May 2009 is insufficient to permit the Commission to conclude that AJE's reporting as a whole is unbalanced."
Media coverage on the CBC, the Toronto Star and elsewhere of Al Jazeera's entry into the Canadian market has focused on these unsubstantiated negative charges. The tremendously positive "Al Jazeera effect" on liberalizing media in the Middle East and in North America has been almost entirely neglected in these reports.
The Al Jazeera effect has already liberalized Arab media with its forthright and balanced journalism when it was launched in 2006. Now, three years later, with its ability to broadcast in Canada, Al Jazeera English will introduce a much needed global southern perspective in North America. AJE is a leader in coverage on the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas and will provide a much needed platform for the under-represented corners of the world.
Canadian viewers can benefit from Al Jazeera's different take on conflict, stories on poverty and other issues. Al Jazeera's coverage provides a unique take, more context and deeper analyses, that is important for North American and Canadian audiences.
While most of the major North American news networks have embeded with invading forces in recent conflicts, AJE is famous for its fearless, unembedded reporting behind civilian lines and covering the true costs of war for ordinary people. There is an enormous difference between AJE and other global news services on their coverage of war and peace-building and therefor there is a value of having such a news outlet in Canada, particularly with the recent allegations of Canadian troops handing over Afghan detainees to torture.
Al Jazeera's English is available in every major European market and to 130 million homes in over 100 countries via cable and satellite, including on Israeli Satellite. It is one of the most watched news channel on YouTube. Although lacking major U.S. distribution, the global news channel has the potential to reach millions of homes in Canada via digital satellite once telcos carry the global news service.
AJE plans to open a bureau in a Canadian city, which will make it the only international news channel to have a bureau in Canada. This will enable AJE not only to bring new views of the world to Canada, but will also bring Canadian stories to the world.
Steve Anderson, director of OpenMedia.ca -- which ran a successful campaign to support Al Jazeera English -- says, "Now that Al Jazeera English is listed as an 'eligible' service in Canada, the next step is for Canadian cable and satellite companies to carry this global news service. There clearly is a demand for the diversity and quality of journalism Al Jazeera represents."
Al Jazeera provides an important perspective, one we need to hear from and one that Canadians and governments need to take into account.
Canadians can tell cable and satellite companies to carry AJE by visiting IwantAJE.net.
Walied Khogali is coordinator of Canadians for Al Jazeera and Anita Krajnc serves on the steering committee of OpenMedia.ca