A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

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.

3 Responses to “who’s watching the vice-presidential debate? Al Jazeera & Al Arabiya – and 300 million viewers”

  1. Why was she winking?
    Who cares what the PM of Canada, Mr. squarehead Harper, says…We soon have a general election in Canada and the Canadian debate was very boring. Have you seen our Liberal boss Stephane Dion? He lived in Ottawa for more than 10 years and still have hard time speaking English.

  2. Hehehe Kheireddine: when I told my parents that I had been watching the debate on Arabiya and Jazeera, my father’s first question was:

    And how did they translate the winks?

    I don’t mean to put Canada down – after all, “some of my best friends are Canadian”. And thanks to them – and especially Med – I’ve learned a great deal about the Canadian system, which is helpful since (as you may know) many Americans believe that American democracy is the only viable form. But I did think it was odd that Arabiya chose to put the Prime Minister’s rather stating-the-obvious comment as a super-sized khabar 3ajil.

  3. Kanuk said

    “Some of my best friends are Canadian”…now there is a cliché that I would not want to use if I really had friends in Canada. For all of you Americans out there who wonder what we are talking about, I recommend the CBC program “Speaking to Americans” hosted by Rick Mercer. It is a howl.

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