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Which world news service is best for expats in Mexico? An unlikely new contender arises

If you like to to watch world news on TV every day, three English-speaking channels are usually available by satellite all over Mexico. These are CNN International, BBC World Service and Fox News.

Which of the three is best? That depends very much on your cultural, social, intellectual or political background. Curiously, more and more expats in Mexico and around the world are discovering a “fourth alternative” only available in many cases, via internet.

The unlikely-sounding alternative is Al Jazeera English, broadcasting from Doha, a wee bit far from Jocotepec, Tlaquepaque and El Tuito. What could Al Jazeera or AJ have to say of interest to “Mexpats”? Marilyn Moss writes from the shores of Lake Chapala:

“AJ is my go-to internet news source for the most unbiased investigating and reporting. If I can't find what I'm looking for there, my second go-to is BBC News. Prefer AJ for its breadth and depth, though.”

Says Dianne Davis on Mexpat Guadalajara's Facebook page: “I was stranded in Cairo during the 2010 gov't overthrow, and CNN was useless. The same 90 minutes of video over and over. For days I literally had no way to know if or when I would be able to leave. That was pretty scary. From my friend's apartment balcony, we saw the cat and mouse games between the military and civilians. Al Jazeera always had new information along with interviews. I love Al Jazeera.”

How did AJ get to where it is today? This service began broadcasting 24 hours a day in 1999 when there was what could be called a TV Truth Vacuum in the Middle East. In those days, most government-sponsored news programs habitually focused on the comings, goings and tea-drinking sessions of the ruling King or Sheikh, while ordinary people with relatives in hot spots like Lebanon and Palestine were desperate for reliable news about what was really going on in the streets. When Al Jazeera, broadcasting from Qatar, began to cover these stories in Arabic, everyone who could pick up the signal was glued to his or her TV screen. I know. I was there.

Zapopan, where I live now, is far from Qatar, nevertheless the best TV coverage I've seen on the plight of Central-American migrants passing through Mexico on their way to the USA has been on Al Jazeera. To understand what I mean, check John Holman's story “Portrait of a People Smuggler.” Just search for this title on aljazeera.com.

Mexico's expats are not the only ones who have discovered AJ. Here are a few answers to the question, “What do you think of Al Jazeera's Coverage?” which recently appeared on their website.

“I hadn't thought a program originating from the Middle East could be so objective and provide so much information. Until I began to view Al Jazeera, I thought the reporting would be slanted, anti-US and anti-Israel, and non-objective. But I was wrong. I'm often on your (AJ's) website and enjoy the in-depth reporting.   -- Charles Laughlin, 07/02/16

“I just wanted to express my thanks to your entire staff for presenting the news of the world from such a fresh, independent, and different-from-everybody-else position. As an ex-pat American living in New Zealand for the past 14 years, I really appreciate the way you tell the stories of the mistreated and the downtrodden who are either glossed over or ignored by the other major news networks. Keep up the good work!” -- Dr. John Gieschen, 17/12/15

“Thank you for being a beacon of professional, honest, objective and true journalism! I am beyond sick of the biased, sensationalistic, tabloid style garbage that passes for news on CNN, Fox, etc. They were obviously designed for people that are easily distracted by 'noisy and shiny' things.” --Walter Lesaulnier, 05/02/16

A few years ago, CNN had a program called Diplomatic License. One day in 2006, the host, Richard Roth, announced that the network planned to terminate his program. “Email me if you have comments,” he suggested. I did, supporting the idea that a weekly program focusing on what goes on in the UN was exactly what a “World News” service ought to feature. To my amazement, Roth sent back a personal thank you. Nevertheless, the program was canceled and for me that marked the moment CNN “threw in the towel” and joined the tabloid crowd. Sad to say, I fear the BBC, which I loyally followed via short-wave radio for 50 years, is heading in the same direction. And as for Fox, well, it is occasionally good for a laugh, I must admit.

So there you are. If you're into golf and yachting, CNN is for you. Royal weddings and babies? Stay tuned to the BBC. But if you are like Dr. Gieschen above and want to know more about the downtrodden on this planet, I suggest you have a look at Al Jazeera. And did I mention there's no advertising?

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