AIM Takes Shot At Al Jazeera

Conservative Press Watchdog Looking to Throw Wrench into Sale of Current TV

WASHINGTON — Accuracy in Media is looking to throw a wrench into the sale of cable channel Current TV to Al Jazeera Media Network, which plans to convert it to Al Jazeera America, a new U.S.-based news channel.

The conservative press watchdog, which has long criticized what it sees as an anti-American bias in the Qatar-based news organization, called on Congress to hold hearings.

Cliff Kincaid, director of AIM’s Center for Investigative Journalism, said it was time for the House Homeland Security Committee, under new chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), to examine the impact of Al Jazeera’s “anti-American programming.” The company currently operates Al Jazeera English, which has gotten little traction in the U.S. and is carried mostly on the digital multicast channels of noncommercial TV stations.

Mike Rosen, communications director for McCaul, had no comment beyond saying that the chairman had not yet set a hearing schedule for the committee.

AIM wants McCaul to look into a complaint against Commonwealth Public Broadcasting Corp., which distributes Al Jazeera English to noncoms.

The hearings, Kincaid said, should look into a complaint filed at the FCC in 2011 that public TV stations carrying Al Jazeera were in violation of agency rules, because the contracts did not allow the stations to substitute any of AJE’s programming. The FCC at press time had no comment on the status of that complaint.

A spokesperson for Commonwealth was not familiar with the complaint, a copy of which was supplied to Multichannel News by AIM. Al Jazeera had not returned a request for comment at press time.

Despite negligible ratings, Current, a network featuring left-leaning news shows and documentaries co-owned by former Vice President Al Gore, was in 60 million homes. But Al Jazeera America may have an uphill climb to preserve that footprint for its new service.

Following the announced sale, Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV, citing the change in ownership.