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NYS Assemblyman Delays Boycott Of Cable TV Providers

WAMC/Allison Dunne

A New York state assemblyman who threatened to boycott cable TV providers if they did not remove Al Jazeera America from basic packages says he is holding off on the boycott for now. He did, however, launch a petition drive.

Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor at the end of August wrote to the executives of four cable TV providers, asking that they remove the new Al Jazeera America news channel from basic cable packages and instead offer the channel a la carte.  Lalor, a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, initially said that if Verizon, which is his provider, Comcast, DirecTV, and Dish Network did not drop Al Jazeera America from their basic cable packages by September 11, he would lead a boycott of the providers. Now Lalor says he’ll give them more time.

Here are those questions.

He says if the answers to these questions are yes, and a lot of money, that would support his argument that alleges Al Jazeera is not out for profit, but to spread propaganda. Al Jazeera America began broadcasting in the U.S. August 20. Lalor alleges that Al Jazeera America’s parent company –Qatar-based Al Jazeera - is an anti-American wing of a foreign government that appeases Islamic terrorists, and viewers in the U.S. should not to have to subsidize Al Jazeera through their cable bills. He says numerous constituents have contacted him saying they are offended that Al Jazeera programming was part of a basic pre-paid package.

Ibrahim Hooper is spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He called the assemblyman’s mission a manufactured controversy removed from reality, and notes that Al Jazeera America programming is not unlike much of the other news programming on cable TV.

Lalor earlier this month launched a petition drive calling on cable companies to drop Al Jazeera from their basic cable packages. As of Monday, Lalor had more than 4,300 signatures from across the nation. He had wanted to reach 5,000 signatures by September 11, and says the more than 4,000 signatures point to his effort as slowly and steadily building. The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Hooper sees it differently.

Lalor says he did hear from Verizon saying it was looking into the matter. In an e-mailed statement last month, a Comcast spokeswoman said Al Jazeera purchased Current TV earlier this year and Comcast would abide by its affiliate agreement with Current TV and carry Al Jazeera America.

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