Al Jazeera Set to Air in Canada
Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network, may soon be airing in Canada after a lengthy battle with the Canadian Radio and Television Commission.
Al Jazeera English, the international spin-off of the Arabic news service, could be cleared by summer with Canada's biggest satellite and cable providers indicating they are prepared to carry the network.
Available in Canada only on the Internet or though satellite signals pulled in from the United States, Al Jazeera English was launched in 2006 amid a flurry of media attention. This week, the network will be picked up by cable carriers in the Washington area – another step toward getting broader carriage in North America – but Canada remains one of its biggest challenges.
When Al Jazeera Arabic (AJA) sought clearance to be carried in Canada in 2003, it came up against deep concerns from Jewish groups over its coverage of Israel. Though the CRTC approved Al Jazeera Arabic for carriage, the regulator attached stringent conditions that proved too much of a hurdle.
This past spring, programmers at the network sat down with its opponents to work through any concerns. In the past, Al Jazeera Arabic had been accused of allowing anti-Semitic content on air.
Critics in Canada wanted assurance that this would not be the case. When Al Jazeera Arabic was cleared in 2003, the CRTC made cable and satellite carriers responsible for blacking out offensive content.
Faced with that task, none of Canada's major carriers wanted the headache of adding the channel since they would have to monitor the call-in shows the Middle East network often broadcast.
To ensure the programming jives with the CRTC's standards and regulations, Tony Burman, managing director of Al Jazeera English and former CBC executive, has proposed a special consultative committee to look over the on-air content every six months to work out any concerns.