ByÂ Aditi Thakker:
I started watching news with Star News, and slowly moved on to the likes of Times Now and NDTV, until I realised that most of these news channel do not show you even a fraction of what is going on around the world. Sure, they manage to highlight most of the important events happening across the country, however events happening in the Northeast or the Red Corridor hardly ever make it to the news. My search for global news took me to Al Jazeera English (AJE). Other than the facts that AJE viewers are not plagued by commercial product advertisements or “high priority” celebrity news, here are some reasons why Al Jazeera English is the news channel for you:
Neutrality: Regardless of its name, there are no regional or religious allegiances that Al Jazeera English maintains in their news production, to their home nation Qatar. The socio-political events of the Middle East are given just as much coverage, with criticism and applause, as that of Africa, East Asia or the Americas. Their coverage of recent wars is considered to be closest to reality, no extra ‘masala’ and no regard for national interest. Ever wondered what a debate on Indian and Pakistani relations looks like, when the anchor is neutral and has examined both sides of the issue? Ever watched a debate on Kashmir or Manipur, which gives you both sides of the story?
Global Perspective: Homed in Qatar, the channel has moved beyond the Middle East in its news coverage ever since they launched the English language channel. The earthquake in Chile was given just as much coverage as the one in Haiti or Southern China. While the world watched the chase to capture the Boston Marathon bomber who killed three, Al Jazeera also featured the situation in earthquake stricken Iran where hundreds were feared dead. AJE doesn’t seem to pick sides, or priorities. If it’s happening somewhere in the world, they will report it. While Indian news channels have done well at covering Obama’s Inauguration, the Royal Wedding and the Royal Baby, there is more going on in the world that merits attention.
Responsible Journalism: Discussions on AJE are conducted in a very civil manner, where everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinion, question one another and expect reasonable responses in return. You really feel like it’s a news studio and not a fish market. The anchors are not aggressive in their questions and hardly ever ask leading questions. They are objective, impartial and fair. There are definitely some news anchors in India who follow similar guidelines, but I’m not sure an entire news channel can be recognised for the same.
Documentaries and Short Series: Along with shows for just current events and news, AJE also features many documentaries, and programs on ongoing practices. They have featured short series on the lives of African immigrants living illegally in Europe and the French Interventions in Africa among others. They featured a series called the Indian Hospital, based on Narayana Hrudalaya, their social commitments to improving healthcare in India. A few Indian news channels, like NDTV do show documentaries that they have created, once in a while. They could do it more often.
User-friendly and Updated Website: The Al Jazeera English website has sections on regions, different programs, individual blogs, an ‘opinions’ area where web-users can discuss issue and Live Television. The website is extremely well organised, updated many times a day and needless to say advert free. It is unfortunate that websites of many Indian news channels are plagued by adverts, news of cat fights between Indian actresses, and many a times, news pieces with extremely misleading headlines. Does India really deserve no better news than what Aishwarya Rai’s daughter likes to wear, in Top Stories?
There are many news channels around the world, and with the new set-top box system of television viewing, many international channels are becoming available in India. There may be other news channels in the world just as efficient as AJE, but if you’re looking for one in Asia or the developing world, you’re looking for Al Jazeera English. AJE isn’t going to tell you everything about what’s going on in India, for which you may still have to refer to Indian channels. But if you think there is something going on in India that Indian channels are not reporting, you might just get lucky with AJE.