Who knew what Al-Jazeera was 10 years ago? Not many people in the U.S., that’s for sure. The only access that Americans had to foreign language media sources was through special cable subscriptions, and a lot of foreign channels were simply not available in many American markets.
That’s no longer the case. Satellite television has brought foreign channels into many American homes. And as people consume media in an increasingly diverse amount of ways beyond newspapers and television, other media sources are getting attention from Westerners.
From North Korea’s national Twitter account, in which anyone in the world can read the “pronouncements of the state,” to TwoFour54, an Abu Dhabi-based media company that uses TV, radio, film and video games to broadcast its message, foreign language media sources are gaining strength.
The impact of these new diverse sources are not just international, however. Mainstream media sources from the Western world like BBC, CNN, and The New York Times are losing clout among audiences abroad. Both local-language media and English-language media are giving them a run for their money, writes Faisal al Yafai in The National.
Al-Jazeera English is the obvious example, reaching millions of people around the globe. China launched CNC World last month. Other state-funded English-language news channels are gaining prominence, such as Russia Today, Germany’s Deutsche Welle, France 24, Japan’s NHK World, China’s CCTV and Iran’s Press TV. Having an English-language channel (often along with other major languages) allows them to spread their brand and message uninterpreted by others.
Another upside of their existence is that viewers can see international events and get information that is grounded in the language and culture that they are familiar with, adding to the trust factor that has been gradually slipping away from mainstream media. The downside? A possible distrust of information presented in a way that does not fit the viewer’s world view, and the loss of authenticity as people understand how many versions of the truth really exist. News as we know it may disappear, becoming merely another comment on an event, Yafai suggests.