Mothers, hide your children. Dads, disable your remote controls. Al Jazeera is coming to town. The swarthy, menacing cable news network based in Qatar has cleared the last CRTC hurdle and, after a five-year struggle, is now available for distribution in Canada.
Having received its CRTC licensing Al Jazeera English (AJE) can now be picked up by Canadian cable distributors. The news giant is also planning to open a Canadian bureau as part of the process of gaining a toehold in North America. (BBC doesn't even have a bureau here. They've long been too polite to disturb Canadians.)
Oh me, oh my! Is Canada ready for this? Is Canada prepared to receive its daily serving of news with a side of global perspective? Can Canada find Qatar on a map?
Some Canadians* are skeptical. Al Jazeera is propaganda ("Give us Fox News!"). Al Jazeera is terrorist journalism ("Give us a CNN embed!"). Al Jazeera doesn't even sound Canadian ("We only watch acronyms!").
Alas, opponents of AJE are off the mark. Al Jazeera is nothing more than a guy named Al with a foreign-sounding last name. Surely nothing is more Canadian than a visible minority with an assimilated name.
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AJE is well known (elsewhere) for its in-depth coverage of global events, in the model of BBC World. Recent feature reporting includes the evaporation of South America's Lake Titicaca, Catholic-church child-abuse scandal in Ireland, and the celebration of Thanksgiving in American Indian communities.
So what kind of frightening programming will Canadians be subjected to? If you're watching AJE today, for example, you'll get:
A debate about race and recession in the US;
Reporting from India on the one-year anniversary of the Mumbai attacks;
An interview with the prime minister of Thailand;
A feature on Panama's small Muslim community making the hajj;
A round-table discussion of the strength of the new European Union.
[Related post: "Walrus tackles Al Jazeera"]
* Actually only 2% of Canadians are unsure, according to the CRTC, which said that 98% of letters it received from the public during a 30-day feedback window before granting AJE a license were supportive of the network broadcasting in Canada.