There used to be a time when the BBC and CNN had a monopoly on world news. In recent years that monopoly has been challenged by professional operations like Al Jazeera, and also by less independent but sometimes useful channels like RT and Press TV. This is a good development. Though, just as the BBC and CNN operate within a paradigm broadly consonant with the foreign policies of their respective states, RT and Press TV are also sensitive to the foreign policy concerns of Russia and Iran. They are all good at reporting the failings of other states. But when it comes to their own and their allies, all of these channels are by and large uncritical.
This diversity is to be appreciated. Viewers for the first time are in a position to make intelligent choices as to the channels they can turn to in each situation. So, if the story is Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, CNN or the BBC will be the wrong place to look for the truth. Conversely, if the news is Syria’s latest assault on Homs, you had best skipped RT and Press TV. You’d be a fool to turn to the BBC for reporting on the London riots; just as you’d be a fool to consult CNN on the OWS movement, RT on Chechnya, or Press TV on the Green Movement. It is important to take them all with a pinch of salt.
The following program, RT’s Crosstalk, illustrates what I mean. The show has often provided a platform to voices that you’ll never hear on the BBC and CNN. Where else can you find a Norman Finkelstein debating a Benny Morris? This broadening of the discourse is a good thing. But it only works where the debate is weighted in favour of the Russian position. As the following show illustrates, when a conversation veers off script, the host is extremely heavy-handed in trying to enforce discipline. In this instance, about 10 minutes into the debate, the host starts battling all his guests to force them to see the situation in Syria his way. This is embarrassing. This side of Bill O’Reilly, the only time I had seen an intervention of this nature was when the BBC’s Ben Brown interviewed Jody McIntyre about the London protests.