Americans Being Forced to Pay for Al Jazeera

Two weeks ago, Al Jazeera America launched, beaming into 48 million homes across the country. The media company that allowed Osama bin Laden to use it as a vehicle to communicate with jihadists around the world is now on your TV screen and you are paying for it. The network pushed its way onto basic cable packages with several providers. If you subscribe to Verizon, Comcast, Dish Network or DirecTV, you are forced to subsidize Al Jazeera's propaganda as part of your cable bill whether you like it or not.

I represent a district about 70 miles north of where the Twin Towers once stood. Thousands of my constituents commute to Manhattan every day.  People from this area perished in the savage attacks of September 11, 2001.  Serviceman from our community made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting to prevent another attack.  Four Marines I served with left everything they had on the battlefields of Iraq.  When constituents contacted my office to express outrage that Al Jazeera America is now part of their basic cable package, I took it very seriously.

We should not have to fund Al Jazeera through our cable bills. Americans do not want to pay for their vile propaganda. I'm launching a petition drive calling on cable companies to drop Al Jazeera from their basic cable packages.

Al Jazeera was founded in 1996 by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and is owned by his government.  Some have claimed that Al Jazeera is independent of the dictatorship that runs Qatar.  But the emir's cousin Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al-Thani runs the network despite not having a journalism background.

In late 2012 former vice president Al Gore and his partners put their fledgling liberal television network Current TV up for sale.  Gore and company accepted Al Jazeera's offer of a half billion dollars on January 2nd 2013.  A spokesman for Gore's group said they chose Al Jazeera because "Al Jazeera was founded with the same goals we had for Current," which was "to give voice to those whose voices are not typically heard" and "to speak truth to power."

Verizon, Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network already carry Al Jazeera America, and Al Jazeera has plans to force their way onto more cable bills. Time Warner Cable, which carried Current TV, dropped Al Jazeera America.  AT &T U-Verse was originally going to carry the network but backed out and is now being sued by Al Jazeera for breach of contract.  Cablevision and Cox Communications do not air Al Jazeera America.

My constituents and I are alarmed that as subscribers, we are being forced against our will to pay for a network that is owned by a foreign dictatorship and has a long history of anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and support for Islamic terror. 

For example, Al Jazeera America has already run a show about closing Guantanamo, painting terrorists as victims and the US as oppressors.  The Arabic Al Jazeera threw a birthday party for terrorist Samir Kuntar, celebrating him as a "pan-Arab hero." Kuntar murdered an Israeli father and his 4-year-old daughter in their home. The Israeli family's mother accidentally suffocated their toddler son as she tried to muffle his cries while hiding from Kuntar. Al Jazeera paid for fireworks to celebrate Kuntar's release from prison. In the days after September 11th, Al Jazeera reported as fact the anti-Semitic lie that Jewish Americans had been told not to come to work at the World Trade Center on 9/11.  CNN reported that a document found in bin Laden's compound following his death referenced a meeting with the Al Jazeera bureau chief in Pakistan.

Al Jazeera's parent dictatorship Qatar does allow the US military to conduct operations within its borders.  However, according to leaked cables and multiple reports, Qatar's record of counter-terrorism efforts was the "worst in the region." According to the New York Times, Qatar is "hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals." Qatar also funds Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.   

Why should subscribers be forced to purchase a network owned by a foreign government that either appeases or subsidizes Islamic terrorists? 

Some have suggested that Al Jazeera has a right to access American television sets just as the BBC, Fox News and MSNBC.  Nonsense.  Since when does a foreign power have a right to pipe its worldview into American living rooms?  The Fox News Channel haters love to point out that a member of the Saudi royal family is the second largest shareholder of Fox's parent company News Corp. It's troubling, but that is far different than the Islamic dictatorship of Qatar owning 100% of Al Jazeera.

To be clear, this is not a First Amendment issue.   The free press and free speech clauses of First Amendments do not protect foreign powers who wish to broadcast propaganda into our country.  Moreover, at this time my constituents and I are not objecting to the existence of the channel.  We object to Al Jazeera America's inclusion as a basic cable channel that subscribers are forced to pay for and receive rather than as an a la carte channel that can be added to a basic package. In short, we are pro-choice when it comes to Al Jazeera. 

Some say that we should just ignore Al Jazeera America and it will go away as a result of low ratings.  But it is not clear that Al Jazeera America is a profit-making venture for Qatar, which has the second highest GDP in the world and can absorb the losses for years if not decades.  Whereas most cable networks have 12 minutes of commercials per hour, Al Jazeera America has only 6 minutes.  Many, if not most of the ads are promos for the network rather than paid spots.  If indeed Al Jazeera is not about making money, their presence on the basic cable dials is even more disturbing. 

I have written to the four major media companies carrying Al Jazeera America and requested that they drop the notoriously anti-American and anti-Semitic Al Jazeera from their basic cable packages.  Should they refuse to remedy this problem by September 11, 2013, we will begin encouraging subscribers to drop their services. 

Because cable companies are granted regional monopolies by local governments, customers don't necessarily have the option to switch providers.  Consequently, we will also begin working with municipalities to revoke the cable monopolies if they don't make Al Jazeera America optional by the 9/11 anniversary.   

Meanwhile, we have launched this petition to show that Americans do not want to be forced to pay for a propaganda arm of an Islamic dictatorship. Sign the petition and tell TV providers you do not want to be forced to pay for Al Jazeera's foul propaganda.

Kieran Michael Lalor, a Marine Corp veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom is a Republican Member of the New State Assembly.