Al Jazeera USA: Not Good for the Jews
This week has been an interesting week to observe the media and public relations moves of foreign governments:
In the “it’s not good for the Jews” category, Al Jazeera announced they had reached a deal to buy Al Gore’s Current TV. Reportedly paying up to $500 million dollars, the Arab owned Al Jazeera station will be broadcast in over 40 million American households. For all the talk of Jewish control of the media, here is a Muslim backed station that will now launch in a major way in mainstream America? Besides our “honorary Jew” Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News there is surely no TV network with tells Israel’s narrative like Al Jazeera does for the Arab world.
It is interesting to note that when Al Jazeera was founded they received a $147 million subsidy from the Qatari government; the station continues to operate under the patronage of the Emir of Qatar and his family. According to a congressional report Al Jazeera receives approximately $100 million annually in Qatari subsidies. A money-losing venture requires very deep pockets. The station is now available in over 130 countries – and it presents professional, well done television. Throughout the years, there has been a lot of talk about a “Jewish Al Jazeera” or a global Jewish TV network with high production value – yet nothing on Al Jazeera’s scale has materialized.
Owning a PR agency, I know that Al Jazeera will be a force to be reckoned with. They will have offices all over the US, and over 300 employees by the end of 2013. Not surprisingly, many in the Jewish world expressed concern. Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein said that Al Jazeera coverage “has served to destabilize regimes and favor some of the more extremist elements in the Arab world.”
This won’t bode well for Israeli public relations – one wonders if Al Jazeera will accept ads from those representing pro-Israel viewpoints, or even Jewish charities like the JNF or Kars 4 Kids. It would be a great PR stunt for a Jewish organization if their ads were accepted and ran – or if they were denied. All in all, it’s not good news for Israel’s branding.
In the world of public relations stunts, Russian President Vladimir Putin pulled off a brilliant maneuver this week granting French actor Gerard Depardieu honorary citizenship after Depardieu decided to flee France, due to their 75% millionaire’s tax. Hundreds of media stories ran on the topic, and now the world knows that Russia has a 13% tax rate. Russia’s Vice-Prime Minister tweeted: “In the West, they don’t know about the substance of our taxation system. When they find out, there will be a mass migration of rich Europeans to Russia.”
Great PR for Russia, usually in the media for less than favorable stories when it comes to business. (Although I don’t imagine that wealthy Russians will be fleeing Israel to return to Russia).
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.