Friday, July 23, 2004

Who will protect us from Fox?...

Censoring Al-Jazeera a double standard
U.S. cable news station abusive, openly biased

by ANTONIA ZERBISIAS

Now that its critics have ensured that Al-Jazeera will never get on Canada's digital dial uncensored, will they now fight to protect us from Fox News?

Recall that, last week, the federal broadcast regulator gave a half-assed go-ahead to the Arabic-language news channel, requiring that distributors who add it to their offerings keep it free of "abusive comment."

That decision, complete with onerous guilty-until-proven-innocent restrictions, was reached after lobbying by both the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith Canada who, naturally, were concerned about anti-Jewish hate speech.

Many people applauded how cable operators must tape and monitor Al Jazeera 24/7 to head off possible offensive material. So, now that the cable industry has yet another application to import Fox News before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), will anyone call for Fox to be similarly muzzled to stop potentially "abusive comment" on the U.S. channel?

To be clear: I am all for having both Fox News and Al-Jazeera on Canada's TV screens — uncut and uncensored. They offer world views that are foreign in all senses of the word. News viewers deserve unlimited options to see events from as many perspectives as possible.

But, not only does Fox, the U.S.'s top-rated and, arguably, most influential cable news channel, regularly abuse the truth, it also abuses politicians, pundits, peacemakers and public figures with whom its political slant does not concur.

For instance, check out how Fox's biggest mouth, Bill O'Reilly, chews out Jeremy Glick, whose father, a Port Authority worker, died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 — all because Glick signed an anti-war advertisement early last year.

On his show, O'Reilly shouted down Glick, called his view of the world "warped," repeatedly told him to "Shut up!" and finally cut his mike. Glick later said that, off-camera, O'Reilly ordered him to "Get out of my studio before I tear you to f------g pieces!" The sequence, and transcripts of it, are all over the Internet. It also appears in Outfoxed, a hot, new political documentary in a year exploding with hot political documentaries.

Sponsored by the liberal activist organization MoveOn.org and the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, the film, available on DVD, is a blistering, and yes, biased attack on Fox.

To catalogue all of Fox's assaults on the truth would fill this paper and more. (You can find well-documented evidence of how it twists events on the MoveOn and CAP Web sites, as well as on MediaMatters.org and Fair.org.

From its role in getting George W. Bush into the Oval Office, to sending Americans to die in Iraq, to working against the election of the Kerry-Edwards ticket, Fox is the White House's trained attack dog.

Yesterday, referring to its biases and distortions, MoveOn.org filed a (conveniently well-timed) petition with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaining that Fox is guilty of false advertising.

"Fox News has violated section 5 by using the slogan and mark 'Fair and Balanced' to advertise and promote the Fox News Channel (FNC) to consumers, and to induce consumers to watch FNC, despite the fact that FNC's news and commentary programming is not remotely 'fair' or 'balanced' but, rather, is deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint," says the complaint.

Meanwhile, the British government recently chastised Fox for violating regulations preventing the media from making "false statements by undermining facts." Anchor John Gibson was cited for deliberately lying about the BBC, accusing it of anti-Americanism and, ironically, fudging news about the war on Iraq.

So what will happen in Canada? This month, and not for the first time in recent years, O'Reilly abused Canadians, calling our teens "flat out ignorant" because, in a survey published in the National Post during the federal election campaign, 40 per cent of our youth (64 per cent in Quebec) said they think the U.S. is "evil."

Never mind — because O'Reilly sure didn't mention it — that probably twice that many Canadian kids are in love with American culture and consumer goods. Forget that our kids may well know more about the U.S. than American kids know about Canada or perhaps the world. O'Reilly denigrated Canadians on his show, subjecting our kids to "abusive comment."

Yesterday in the Post, Ed Morgan, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, published an op-ed praising the Canadian limitations on Al-Jazeera. Referring to how it airs "vile" material, Morgan noted the channel had, along with hosting American and Israeli leaders, interviewed Ku Klux Klan chief David Duke in 2002.

The Post made a big deal of that, by highlighting the bit in boldface and larger type. But Fox News had Duke on as well, also in 2002, discussing — and this is from Duke's Web site where you can buy a video of the interview for $25 (U.S.) — "the Israeli involvement in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks."

So just what is the difference between Fox and Al-Jazeera?

Go see Control Room, Jehane Noujaim's revealing documentary about Al-Jazeera, and you'll hear U.S. Marine Lt. Josh Rushing, former Central Command spokesperson, say the Arabic channel is no less slanted than Fox, which "plays to American patriotism" instead of Arab nationalism.

Which is why you have to wonder if the Canadian critics of Al-Jazeera plan to write about how we should be protected from Fox's abusive and biased content.

The deadline for comments to the CRTC on the Fox application is Aug. 23. Find more information by clicking here.

All International news articles and news are available at

http://lists.riseup.net/www/arc/internationalnews/2004-07
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