Is Saudi Prince Steering News Corp. Coverage?

January 12, 2013

Diana West


Ever since Al Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera, the network founded and funded by the oil-rich emirate of Qatar, the former vice president has drawn continuous fire in conservative media. Fox News, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, for example, have all castigated Gore, a man of the Left and leading avatar of “global warming,” for such hypocrisies as timing the deal to avoid Lefty tax hikes and bagging $100 million in greenhouse-gas money.
These same news outlets share something else in common: They all belong to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. That means they also belong to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

Alwaleed owns the largest chunk of News Corp. stock outside the Murdoch family. Shortly after his purchase of 5.5 percent of News Corp. voting shares in 2005, Alwaleed gave a speech that made it clear just what he had bought. As noted in The (U.K.) Guardian, Alwaleed told an audience in Dubai that it took just one phone call to Rupert Murdoch — “speaking not as a shareholder but as a viewer,” Alwaleed said — to get the Fox News crawl reporting “Muslim riots” in France changed to “civil riots.”
This didn’t make the “Muslim” riots go away, but Alwaleed managed to fog our perception of them. With a phone call, the Saudi prince eliminated the peculiarly Islamic character of the unprecedented French street violence for both the viewers at home and, more significantly, for the journalists behind the scenes. When little owner doesn’t want “Muslim” rioting identified and big owner agrees, it sets a marker for employees. Alwaleed’s stake, by the way, is now 7 percent.
We can only speculate on what other acts of influence this nephew of the Saudi dictator might have since imposed on Fox News and other News Corp. properties. (I have long argued that News Corp. should register as a foreign agent, due to the stock owned by a senior member of the Saudi ruling dynasty.) Alwaleed hasn’t shared any other editorial exploits with the public. But that opening act of eliminating key information from News Corp.’s coverage of Islamic news might well have set a pattern of omission.
Recently, such a pattern of omission in News Corp.’s coverage of the Gore-Al Jazeera deal seems evident. I say “seems,” because I can’t be entirely certain that I haven’t missed something in my research. But judging from online searches of news stories and audio transcripts, two salient points are missing from at least the main body of News Corp.’s coverage.
One is reference to the noticeable alignment of Al Jazeera with the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamic movement whose motto is, “The Koran is our law; jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” The second (with an exception noted below) is reference to Al Jazeera’s superstar host and ideological lodestar, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure. The influence of al-Qaradawi at the network and in Qatar — where, according to Freedom House’s 2012 press report, it is against the law for journalists to criticize the Qatari government, the ruling family or Islam — can hardly be overestimated.
Strange omission? This relationship between the Qatari-controlled network and the Muslim Brotherhood organization has been observed for years. Back in 2007, for example, Steven Stalinsky reported in The New York Sun that various Arab commentators referred to Al Jazeera as “the Muslim Brotherhood channel” and the like. What’s more, reference to the relationship appears at least in passing in coverage of the Gore deal at mainstream media sites such as USA Today and the Seattle Times. More discussion is available at some conservative outlets, including Rush Limbaugh and The Blaze. (Searches at Breitbart and the Washington Examiner, like News Corp. sites, yielded nothing on these same points. Call it, perhaps, “the Fox effect.”)
Given the rise of Muslim Brotherhood parties in the revolutions of the so-called Arab Spring — undeviatingly cheered on by Al Jazeera — the network’s Muslim Brotherhood connection, which extends to Al Jazeera’s sponsors inside the Qatari ruling family, is a crucial point to miss. Especially when it seems to be missed across the board.
The same goes for failing to mention Al Jazeera’s leading personality, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in the Gore deal coverage. This longtime “spiritual guide” of the Muslim Brotherhood hosts one of Al Jazeera’s most popular shows, “Sharia and Life.” Among other poisonous pronouncements, al-Qaradawi has called for Americans in Iraq and Israelis everywhere to be targeted by terrorists (“martyrs”) who would then find a place in Islamic paradise. Given Al Gore’s refusal to sell his network to Glenn Beck’s The Blaze TV due to political differences, Muslim Brother Al-Qaradawi and his Shariah ideology become highly relevant. Then again, maybe one man’s news story is just another man’s clipping on the cutting-room floor.
Meanwhile, the one story I found in News Corp. coverage of the Gore deal that mentions al-Qaradawi — a column by Gordon Crovitz — neglected to note al-Qaradawi’s place in the Muslim Brotherhood. Particularly given current events, this is a little like forgetting to mention that Hermann Goring was in the Nazi Party.
Could normal editorial discretion or plain ignorance be at work here? I suppose so. Still, there is that tie-in between News Corp. and the House of Saud to consider, a partnership I find more troubling than Gore’s deal with the Qatari emirate. Not only does Alwaleed own a stake in News Corp., Murdoch owns an even more substantial stake (18.97 percent) in Alwaleed’s Arabic media company Rotana.
Within the Alwaleed-Murdoch-Rotana galaxy is a 24-hour-Islamic outlet called Al Risala, which Alwaleed founded in 2006. The channel’s director and popular “tele-Islamist” is Tareq Al-Suwaidan, widely reported to be a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. The station’s “Supreme Advisory Committee” includes Abdullah Omar Naseef, who, according to former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, is “a major Muslim Brotherhood figure” involved in the financing of al-Qaida.
Al Risala, then, would seem to fit right into the Al Jazeera-Qaradawi-Muslim-Brotherhood lineup.
We know Alwaleed has influenced Fox editorial matters before. Could that Alwaleed influence — even his very presence – account for why News Corp. hasn’t hit harder on the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaradawi angles of the Gore-Jazeera deal?
I don’t know, but I wonder. Don’t you?

Diana West

Diana West is a contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of the new book, The Death of the Grown-up: How America’s Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization.


Gore Threatened To Accuse Cable Providers Of Being Anti-Muslim Bigots If They Dropped Al Jazeera After Current TV Sale

January 5, 2013

(Weasel)A play ripped from Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson’s playbook on racial shakedowns.
Via Media Decoder: Al Gore’s Current TV was never popular with viewers, but it was a hit where it counted: with cable and satellite providers. When he co-founded the channel in 2005, Mr. Gore managed to get the channel piped into tens of millions of households — a huge number for an untested network — through a combination of personal lobbying and arm-twisting of industry giants.
He called on those skills again after deciding in December to sell Current TV toAl Jazeera for $500 million. To preserve the deal — and the estimated $100 million he would personally receive — he went to some of those same distributors, who were looking for an excuse to drop the low-rated channel, and reminded them that their contracts with Current TV called it a news channel. Were the distributors going to say that an American version of Al Jazeera didn’t qualify, possibly invoking ugly stereotypes of the Middle Eastern news giant?
“The lawyers for the carriers couldn’t find their way around it,” said a person briefed on the negotiations who described them on condition of anonymity.


Time Warner opposes sale of Current to Al Jazeera

January 3, 2013

(Al Gore Sold News Network to Al Jazeera for $500 Million Because of Shared Ideology and to Avoid Higher Taxes) Getting this transaction done was very difficult. One of Current’s distributors, Time Warner Cable, did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera. Consequently, Current will no longer be carried on TWC.

Thank goodness for Time Warner. Who expected them to do the right thing? We should work to campaign and put pressure on other cable distributors to dump Al Jazeera America/Current TV as well. (MORE)

don’t put too much faith in Time Warner. A left wing package like Al Jazeera could sincerely eat away at CNN’s profits.
Arab Spring coverage at Al Jazeera was “thorough” because Al Jazeera is the propaganda arm of Qatar, which spent a lot of money to create the Arab Spring, and is now profiting by selling gas to Egypt, a country that formerly exported gas.
Time Warner doesn’t have any gas to sell, but depends on government contracts for rights to lay their wires in the street. Time Warner’s left wing is not Al Jazeera’s left wing. Hoping for big government is very different then creating markets for Qatar’s natural gas.

(Commentary)(EYE) The Wall Street Journal reports that Glenn Beck–who approached Current TV about a sale last year–was too right-wing for the network to even consider his offer. But an authoritarian-Islamist government that has criminalized homosexuality, discriminates against non-Muslims, prosecutes journalists, and has a “Not Free” rating from Freedom House? That was fine:

Before Al-Jazeera, there was Glenn Beck.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Glenn Beck’s media company, The Blaze, approached Current Media about a sale last year, but was told in the words of one source that “the legacy of who the network goes to is important to us and we are sensitive to networks not aligned with our point of view.”
The Blaze “reached out to them to buy it,” a source familiar with the talks told POLITICO. “They would have replaced Current programming with The Blaze programming, but were told on initial calls that [Current] wouldn’t sell to someone they weren’t ideologically in line with.”
In explaining the reasons for selling to Al-Jazeera, Current co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt told the Journal that the Qatari-based broadcaster “was founded with the same goals we had for Current,” including “to give voice to those whose voices are not typically heard” and “to speak truth to power.”

Sure, Al Jazeera can “speak truth to power,” as long as the powerful are not in Qatar. Whatever your feelings about Glenn Beck, he doesn’t advocate government censorship of the Internet or crackdowns on dissidents for “insulting” the nation’s leadership. He also isn’t funded primarily by the oil and gas industry, which Al Gore has spent his post-government career criticizing. So the fact that Qatari-owned Al Jazeera is supposedly more ideologically compatible with Current TV than Glenn Beck gives you an idea of how far off the left is from any genuine position of liberalism.
But Al Jazeera’s Qatari funding also raises other questions for Current TV. While foreign, authoritarian government-funded networks aren’t required to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, they often act as propaganda arms for their respective regimes (a prime example being the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, which now goes by the inconspicuous moniker RT). Al Jazeera is no exception, pushing an editorial line that supports the ruling emir’s interests, along with a clear anti-Western and anti-Israel slant. This isn’t something that will play well with advertisers or cable providers–Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV almost immediately after the sale was announced. If outside pressure mounts, others could follow suit. After all, it’s not as if Current TV had strong ratings to begin with.


Synergy: Al Jazeera Buys Al Gore’s Current TV

January 3, 2013

Some Current personnel will continue on with the Al Jazzera America channel, but most of its programming will be, ahem, original.

What can you say? The suitors found each other.

So smoothly does the transition of a liberal propaganda cable news network that no one watched proceed to an Islamist propaganda cable news network that no one watches.

Al Jazeera is a propaganda network for the Qatari tyranny which has a hand in backing every Islamist terrorist group from Hamas to Al Qaeda.
Qatar has enough money to burn that it’s decided that it wants a finer control over the liberal message with its own ‘left of left’ news network. Considering that Current TV was meant to appeal to lefties in that sweet spot between MSNBC (too right wing) and RT (too crazy), this is a tricky balancing act.

Al Jazeera is finalizing a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore and his business partners seven years ago.
If the deal is completed, Current will provide the pan-Arab news giant with something it has sought for years: a pathway into American living rooms. Current is available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service.
Rather than simply use Current to distribute its existing English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel based in New York, according to people with knowledge of the deal negotiations. Potentially called Al Jazeera America, roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.
Al Jazeera may absorb some Current TV staff members, according to the people, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But Current’s schedule of shows will most likely be dissolved in the spring.
The plan will bring Al Jazeera, which is financed by the government of Qatar, into closer competition with CNN and other news channels in the United States.

I don’t see this as competition so much as Al Jazeera creating its own RT and PressTV, except with a bigger presence on American airwaves. But Current TV had a limited presence to begin with. And there’s no serious reason to think that Al Jazeera America will do much better than the BBC, from which it was originally born.

Like RT and PressTV and Xinhau, Al Jazeera is regime propaganda. The difference is that American leftist media has decided to ignore the fact that Al Jazeera is just another network owned by a totalitarian regime looking to spread its propaganda. Maybe now they’ll be forced to stop ignoring it.