Saturday January 5, 2013

If Time-Warner Cable had dropped VH-1 or MTV from its roster of channels it would deserve plaudits for clearing pollution from the airwaves, but it has instead dumped the left-leaning Current TV following its purchase by Qatar-based Al-Jazeera. The cable giant, available through most of the Berkshires, sanctimoniously declared that it is "removing the service as quickly as possible," but all it is accomplishing is depriving millions of customers of an important journalistic voice. A voice that is not going to disappear.

Al-Jazeera gained deserved recognition for its unflinching coverage of the second Iraq War, coverage that discomfited the George W. Bush administration and prompted war apologists like Bill O’Reilly to declare it to be anti-American and pro-terrorist. In truth, the rapidly growing network is so respected for its journalism that last year it won both the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Grand Prize and the Scripps Howard Award for Television/Cable in-Depth reporting.

Because Al-Jazeera is owned by an oil rich Arab country there are concerns about potential biases, but Time-Warner offers the left-leaning MSNBC and right-leaning Fox News and viewers presumably factor in those biases when watching their programs. And as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton observed in 2011, even those who don’t subscribe to Al-Jazeera’s viewpoints must acknowledge the value of getting "real news around the clock instead of a million commercials."

Al-Jazeera, which wants to gradually transform Current into an entity called Al-Jazeera America, plans to hire journalists and create new U.S. bureaus at a time when most networks are laying off journalists and closing bureaus. It will cover the foreign news that many networks have been cutting back on in favor of fluff about celebrities. Time-Warner should dump its Bush-era biases and let the world in via Al-Jazeera. Their rivals at Comcast and Direct TV, which are keeping Current, plan to do just that.