Toulouse Terrorist Sends Video of His Killings to Aljazeera. Station Refused to Broadcast it.

What really annoys me about this New York Times story is that it’s assuming that since Aljazeera is refusing to broadcast footage of children being killed at close range, that somehow means that the station is changing its editorial policy:

The decision [not to air the footage], made at the very top of the sprawling international network, provided an opportunity for Al Jazeera to display its journalistic restraint at a time of management upheaval and accusations of a double standard in its coverage of uprisings in the Middle East. Experts said Mr. Merah’s video offered a possible hint of the broadcaster’s future editorial direction.

This is rubbish. Aljazeera has angered the Americans in the past because it broadcasted Bin Laden’s propaganda and videos of American hostages, videos that have editorial value despite being unsavory to uncle Sam. But I can’t think of any instant in which Aljazeera actually broadcasted a murder scene, let alone one involving children. To somehow suggest that this latest “restraint” is out of character is deeply disingenuous. I mean, listen to the kind of video we’re talking about:

it showed the seven killings with music, religious chants and the reading of Koranic verses in the background. “You hear the gunshots and the cries of the victims,”

Did Aljazeera ever broadcast something like this? I accept that the station is at a political inflection point, but the premise of this article is completely unfounded.

Al Jazeera Gets Hold of "Secret Syria Files"

Aljazeera describes the confidential Syria documents it obtained:

The files provide an insight into President Bashar al-Assad’s strategy to suppress anti-government protests, including the lengths the government went to for protecting its strongholds. The documents, running into hundreds of pages, point to a government desperate to keep control of the capital Damascus and include clear orders to stop protesters from getting into the city.

There’s an entire story in that article about an opposition “mole” in a sensitive security post who sent the documents to Aljazeera. But feel free, like me, not to buy that story and instead think of a big-time espionage operation that involves a lot of cash transfer and a nation whose name I will not mention, but who will host the World Cup in 2022.

❊ Lebanon and Satellite TV Channels

A row between Aljazeera and Lebanese cable providers reveals much about Lebanese consumption of Satellite TV.

aljazeera english studios
If you’ve never lived outside of Lebanon, you’ll be excused for thinking that satellite TV is something you subscribe to by paying some guy a small monthly fee in return for watching every international TV channel under the sun.

The way this works is that a “cable provider” installs a large satellite dish on his roof, connects it to various networks like Orbit Showtime Network, and then sells end users (or neighborhood re-sellers) access to that feed by laying a coaxial cable from his end to the back of your TV (often by throwing the cable from roof to roof). Like the local electricity ishtirak provider, this is a shady operation that involves various kinds of hacking, but everyone does it because it’s convenient.

This is not how things work in the rest of the world. End users are expected to buy decoding boxes to get access to the various channels. The amount you pay depends on which “bouquet” you choose. So if you subscribe to a news bouquet (in which you only get access to 10 news stations), you pay $20/month. But if you want a large selection of stations that includes news, entertainment and movies (like the one many Lebanese take for granted) you could end up paying as much as $150 per month.

Now, Aljazeera has decided to crack down on Lebanese practices and is asking to be paid a charge of $1.5 for every end user of its channels. What is interesting is the reaction of Lebanese neighborhood cable providers, a reaction which is very revealing of Lebanese attitudes to copyrights. United Cable Lebanon (UCL), one of the largest cable providers has responded by taking out Aljazeera from its service packet, and replacing its feed with a message that Aljazeera wants more money.

Basically the cable providers’ argument is that the Lebanese can’t afford to pay so much for cable TV because they don’t have access to credit, and that the government needs to protect them from “businessmen who have been making deals with the foreign satellite companies to exploit the Lebanese market.”

In any other place in the world, this logic would be considered insane. It assumes that people are entitled to cheap satellite TV provided by shady cable providers, and that somehow people are  entitled to government protection from the TV stations who are simply asking to be paid licensing fees. This is like asking the government to stop Microsoft from cracking down on $1 bootlegged CDs of Microsoft Office because people are poor and don’t have access to credit.

But Aljazeera, for political reasons, still wants to be watched in Lebanon. So I’m assuming that a settlement will eventually be reached in the end.