Third Cinema revisited

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Twenty Five Years of Al Jazeera

Posted by keith1942 on November 3, 2021

This week has seen congratulatory broadcasts and programmes on this International Television News channel and its associated websites. The congratulations by the channel and from other media organisations are well deserved. Whilst it values and interests remain within the global capitalist system it has fairly consistently provided a wide range of news, opinions and faces and importantly offered a ‘voice for the people’.

It was set up in and by Qatar on November 1st 1996 as an Arabic language television platform. It has championed democratic movements, much to the chagrin of the mainly authoritarian regimes in the Middle East. It has also championed the resistance of popular movements to those regimes and of popular movements resisting the continuing neocolonial control over the region. One of its innovatory stances in the television media world was a constant variety of people in live and recorded interviews from a different viewpoints on any given issue or contradiction. This has had a marked effect on competing international broadcasters.

One factor in its founding was the demise of the BBC Arabic Service. At one time the BBC World services were seen as an independent and liberal voice round the world. Now Al Jazeera offers a more internationalist, more varied and more critical voice than any part of the BBC or the major broadcasters in Europe and North America. When the US attacked Iraq Al Jazeera was the only major broadcaster not embedded with the military forces of the invading coalition. In 2011 it was the voice of the many popular democratic movements across the Middle East and suffered repression, notably in Egypt. And its coverage of the several Israeli attacks on Gaza and on the continuing Palestinian resistance to Zionist occupation also stands out.

In the early 2000s it branched out into English language web provision and then English language television broadcasting; first in Europe and then in North America. As the services developed Al Jazeera has become a producer and distributor of independent and critical documentary. Many in the international audiences now see their ‘films’ on satellite television and streaming services. And the programmes broadcast on Al Jazeera remain available through their web sites.

This blog has reviewed and praised a number of these:

Al-Nakba (2008)

World War 1 Through Arab Eyes (2017)

Blood and Tears French Decolonisation (2020)

The Lobby (2017 – posts charting attacks on Ken Loach by Zionist fellow-travellers in Britain).

The documentaries frequently features archive footage that is rarely seen in other media. And much of it avoids Television’s tendency to reframe archive film to poor effect.

So what ever the limitations in the editorial policy and presentation on the channels Al Jazeera is an important resource for anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists.

The Arabic services can be seen at ‘aljazeera.net’ and the English-language services at ‘aljazeera.com’. In Britain the television Channel is on Freeview 235. Let us hope they continue for another twenty five years and longer.

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