who’s watching the vice-presidential debate? Al Jazeera & Al Arabiya – and 300 million viewers
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 4, 2008
When I tuned in to the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night, my first stop was not CNN. I wanted to see whether the major Arabic channels were planning to cover it – and if so, how.
The debate started at 9:00 pm Eastern time, which is a bit late for the Arabic-speaking world. 9:00 pm in New York is 2:00 am in Morocco; 3:00 am in Egypt; 4:00 am in Lebanon; and 5:00 am in the United Arab Emirates. But both Al Jazeera and Arabiya carried the full debate live – allowing viewers who were awake to see it in a language they understood, and allowing the news channels to be able to re-broadcast part or all of the debate later on Friday.
Here are a few snapshots I took of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya’s debate coverage:
The text in the white box at the top right says “Live – St. Louis”, and the text in the blue band at the bottom reads: “First debate between the two candidates for the American vice-presidency from the Republican and Democratic parties”.
These images aren’t anything you didn’t see on CNN – but that’s part of what interests me. The US presidential elections are a big deal, and the world – and maybe particularly the Arab world – is watching them with great interest.
Below are two photos I took of Al Arabiya’s coverage. To be honest, I didn’t like Arabiya’s instant translators as much as Al Jazeera’s. Each station had a team of three translators: one for each candidate, and one for the moderator. Al Jazeera’s team happened to be all men, while Al Arabiya’s happened to be all women – and I simply didn’t care for two of the women’s accents.
I should also note here something that I noticed after looking through all the photos I had taken. Palin looks like she is smiling in all of them – “the result of all that beauty queen training”, one of my colleagues said yesterday. And Biden looks like he is scowling. Now – I know that he smiled, and I know that she looked serious: but my photos suggest that the overall “attitude” they project to viewers is very different.
And finally: I have absolutely no idea why Al Arabiya decided that “The Prime Minister of Canada: the American economy is in a disaster” must be run as a breaking news item during the debate. Surely by Thursday night this was rather old news – in the Arab world as well as in Canada.