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National organization calls on cable TV companies to carry Al-Jazeera

AJE provides better world coverage, group says

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The National Council on Canada-Arab Relations is calling on all Canadian cable television companies to offer Al-Jazeera English to their subscribers. Doug Daniels, who serves on the Council’s board of directors, says cable companies should give customers a chance to sign up for what he describes as Al-Jazeera’s “well balanced and high acclaimed” international coverage.

“Al-Jazeera is an open door to the rest of the world,” he says. “It’s not only an alternative to North American all-news channels, it also offers a broader range of coverage from around the world.”

Daniels notes that at a time when North American media have been closing international bureaus, laying off reporters and cutting back on foreign coverage, Al-Jazeera has been expanding its operations. It has about 70 international bureaus and broadcasts from studios in Doha, Qatar; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London in the U.K. and Washington, D.C.

So far, Al-Jazeera English is being offered in Canada by Bell satellite TV and three cable companies, Rogers, Videotron and Shaw. Jill Laing, who speaks for Eastlink, which has a monopoly on cable services in HRM, won’t say whether the company has any plans to offer the all-news, digital channel here.

“Generally speaking, we do not pre-announce channel availability, pricing and packaging,” she said in an e-mail this week. “If the status of this changes, [I] will definitely let you know.”

Doug Daniels who is a veteran Canadian diplomat and author of several books and articles on international affairs and development issues, describes himself as a "real news junkie" who watches three to four hours of Al-Jazeera English a week. Daniels lives in Ottawa and is a Rogers cable subscriber.

Meantime, a national media reform group has launched its own campaign to persuade cable companies to carry Al-Jazeera English. Openmedia.ca is calling on Canadians to write letters urging the companies to offer the channel.

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