What you see on U.S. television is determined by the cable providers who own the air waves. What you see on the Internet is determined by you.
U.S. cable providers rarely carry foreign news outlets because television is a profit-driven business, and most providers have determined that the cost of carrying these networks outweighs the profit they would generate in ad revenue: the life blood of American television.
The Internet, on the other hand, is a democracy-driven business, in which you determine what you want to see and when you want to see it – without cable restrictions. It allows foreign networks, such as Al Jazeera (English), the primary news outlet for the Middle East (where I had the privilege of interning last summer), to penetrate the American media barrier and reach viewers who seek an alternative perspective on international news and issues.
Three years ago, Al Jazeera English launched a Youtube Channel to feature its coverage in an effort to repudiate false rumors about its agenda. The channel included a video of anchorwoman Ghida Fakhry asking viewers for feedback on Al Jazeera English in the form of 30-second video submissions. Her video attracted more than 1.2 million views and prompted a number of Youtube videos from viewers who supported Al Jazeera. These advocacy videos multiplied across Youtube and generated even more online publicity for the network.
The channel has since attracted more than 60,000 subscribers and nearly 5 million viewers. It also redirects viewers to Al Jazeera English’s website where they can tune in to its live coverage of international events, such as the Afghan election, Iran protests and Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Al Jazeera journalists report on from the ground and U.S. media outlets report on from New York.
Al Jazeera English is a perfect example of how social media gives the individual control over what he or she wants to see, diminishing the restrictions of centralized, corporate, traditional control.
Here is the video of Ghida Fakhry asking for your feedback on Al Jazeera English’s coverage. I actually had the privilage of working with her in Washington, D.C., where AJE journalists do an incredible job of bringing 3rd world issues to the attention of the English-speaking 1st world.