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Turmoil in Middle East prompts Cambridge cable TV to air Al Jazeera English

Posted by Brock Parker  March 30, 2011 01:00 PM

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Sparked by the political unrest in the Middle East, Cambridge Community Television will begin regularly airing Al Jazeera English weeknights beginning Friday.

The news broadcast will be featured weeknights at 10 p.m. on CCTV’s Channel 9 after Executive Director Susan Fleischmann said a sporadic airing of the hour-long program in recent weeks on the public access channel generated a positive response from viewers.

Al Jazeera English is an offshoot the Qatar-based Arabic-language news channel, and while it reaches 220 million house holds in more than 100 countries, it is only available on a full-time basis to cable TV subscribers in three markets in the United States: Toledo, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; and Burlington, Vt.

Fleischmann said CCTV began airing the Al Jazeera English news broadcast sporadically about a month ago as the world watched the revolution in Egypt.

“We felt like people were getting one point of view from mainstream media here in this country and we felt there were certain other points of view and international points of view that maybe weren’t being represented in that way,” Fleischmann said. “We wanted people to get a sense of what other people around the world were thinking about it.”

The response from viewers was overwhelmingly positive, and many of them asked the station to air the program more, she said.

The addition of Al Jazeera English to the CCTV broadcast is permanent, and will follow Democracy Now, which airs weeknights at 9.

The Globe reported last week that Al Jazeera has been expanding its US operations, which are based in the nation’s capital, and recently added a Los Angeles bureau. On its website, visitors are urged to lobby their own cable providers to add the news channel to their programming menus, the Globe reported.

In Vermont, Burlington Telecom began carrying Al Jazeera in 2006 — making Burlington the first US city to offer subscribers 24-hour access to the channel.

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