Clinton criticizes American media
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated earlier this month to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the US was losing the information war. She cited international news networks such as Al-Jazeera as examples of agencies that do a better job at providing quality news programming than their domestic commercial counterparts.
“You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners,” Clinton said.
The rise in demand for Al-Jazeera in the U.S. came in on the waves of the Egyptian revolution, with record numbers of American internet users visiting the English Al-Jazeera website.
According to an article published in the Huffington Post, viewership on the Al-Jazeera English network rose 2,500 percent at its peak.
Contrary to Clinton’s observation, domestic cable news networks have world news coverage, opinion and political commentary. And casual perusal of the Al-Jazeera English website will reveal in-depth analysis and opinion articles galore, just as in other networks.
However, the quality of reporting and the coverage of world events is superior in foreign media, which is why more viewers are turning to outlets such as Al-Jazeera, BBC and others.
Frank Sesno, former CNN bureau chief, astutely observed that the attention span of American cable and network news was shorter than international programs.
The emphasis is to cover the breaking news but a lack of follow-up in the aftermath. The competition between the numerous US outlets creates a ratings war, and it is much cheaper to compete using inflammatory comments and “talking heads,” than employing expensive international divisions and correspondents.
The spike of Al-Jazeera and other international networks might also point to a rising group of viewers that would prefer to get their news without the added twist of the celebrity scandal of the day.
Predictably, pundits like Fox News’ Glenn Beck have railed against Clinton and her comments. Beck stated Clinton’s view about Al-Jazeera was “insanity,” while calling the network “the propaganda arm of the Middle East and Islamic extremism.” What is telling is the lack of comment from many of the more mainstream networks.
As the demand for cable providers to produce these types of programming increases, perhaps the networks will take note and re-evaluate their choices. If the proposed sweeping cuts to public media budgeting take hold, many viewers will be looking for new outlets for information.