People all over the world have had their eyes on Egypt the past ten days because of the dramatic events unfolding there. Al Jazeera, the Doha, Qatar-based satellite news network has been a key way for the world to access live footage of the protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo, as well as view interviews with activists in the street and Egyptian commentators.
While Al Jazeera is basically a mainstream news network sanctioned by the Qatar government and ruling elites, it’s perspective on developments in the Arab world and its access to eyewitness reporting and local voices makes it a unique view for US audiences. Their reporters and film crews have faced arrest, beatings and death in Iraq, Palestine and now Egypt where they have been particularly targeted by the pro-Mubarak forces on the street.
US cable news networks, National Public Radio and others have rushed reporters to Egypt in the past week to give eye-witness coverage to events there, but no one has had hours upon hours of live coverage and commentary from the as well as the cultural and political background simply missing from US news networks.
But for most people in the US Al Jazeera is unavailable. Just three local cable networks carry Al Jazeera English. Even DishTV satellite service as limited Al Jazeera service and adding the channel to free-to-air satellite service can be exorbitant.
Al Jazeera has had a hard time breaking in to US markets after being bashed in the US media and by politicians for airing the perspective of groups the US government opposes like Hamas and Hezbollah and for airing taped messages from people associated with the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Weather you agree with Al Jazeera’s editorial polices or not, it remains an indispensable source of information on the Middle East.
But getting live access to Al Jazeera in the US is far from impossible. You can even do it for free.
There are a number of options from a built-in Adobe Flash player to Real Player to Youtube to other video formats. Most modern computers with up-to-date plug-ins can watch this way, but the quality isn’t great and the signal can drop a lot.
Another option is to download the desktop player from LiveStation. It is free and allows you to play live video from both Al Jazeera English (as well as Arabic). Again the quality isn’t great, but if you really want better image, you can upgrade to a LiveStation Pro package which quality this reporter cannot vouch for.
If playing video on our computer or phone is a hassle, there are even a couple option for watching on your TV. The easiest is if you have a Roku tv-top media player. Now, Roku offers access to Al Jazeera live video using the CDNTWO Channel. Just add LiveStation in options and in seconds you have Al Jazeera on your flat-screen.
Of course it seems that in today’s world, most cable providers should simply make international news sources like Al Jazeera a standard part of it television service. If this past week is any clue, millions of people in the US are eager to catch a different perspective on events in the Middle East regardless of their political background.
Of course, if you want to send a message to your local cable provider that you want them to carry Al Jazeera, you can send them an email saying so by using the I Want Al Jazeera English campaign.
The first program presented by Al-Jazeera’s English channel from television studios in Doha, Qatar, Nov. 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Al-Jazeera/ho)