Al Jazeera Tells Comcast: Let's Make A Deal

It does seem a little odd that most Americans don't have access to the best coverage of breaking news in the Middle East, doesn't it?

Hauling four boxes that contained the printouts of 13,000 supportive e-mails, Al Antsey of the Al-Jazeera network came to the Comcast building on Tuesday looking for a major U.S. platform for the 24-hour, Qatar-based news channel that at one time was viewed as just a mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden.

It's time, he told officials with the nation's largest cable operator, to cast aside misperceptions of the Arabic news station as tainted with anti-American bias, and join the rest of the world.

About 250 million households around the globe have access to Al-Jazeera English - arguably the most sophisticated English-language news organization covering the Middle East - but fewer than three million of those households are in the U.S.

The network has viewership in three U.S. markets: Washington; Burlington, Vt.; and Toledo, Ohio.

With viewership on its Internet site up sharply because of Al-Jazeera's news coverage of the political upheaval in the Middle East, Antsey says this is a "turning point" for the news channel, and he is making the rounds of the U.S. pay-TV operators.

"We had a very fruitful meeting," Antsey said, adding that during his talks at the Comcast Center, the tallest U.S. building between New York and Chicago, he had "a fantastic view of the city over which we would like to broadcast our news."

A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed that the cable operator met with Al-Jazeera officials but would not comment on programming negotiations or discussions.


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