Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former communications chief, has visited al-Jazeera and come away with his thinking changed.
“I thought they would be cocky and brash because they had made themselves into the media story of the last decade. In fact, I found them worried about the way they were perceived, and genuinely perplexed by what they saw as a one-dimensional American view of their output. They see themselves as agents of change, but condemned as part of a dangerous status quo. They report anti-Americanism, but deny anti-Americanism is part of their ethos.
“Whether I was lulled or not, the truth is that the station is now a significant media player. It will become more so when the English language service comes on stream. Western politicians should feel free to attack it if they think it deserves it. But there is a case for a more engaged approach. It is no good just complaining that your policy is constantly misrepresented. You have to engage in the task of putting your case, whatever you think of the medium, and you will probably do the job better if you try to understand where the medium is coming from.”