Tuned In

My Video Commute: Bringing the Middle East to Midtown

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As part of my ongoing effort to use my video iPod to ensure that I never have to read on the subway again, I’ve been sampling video podcasts–this morning, the Mosaic newscast from linkTV.The Peabody Award-winning show, which compiles news reports from around the Middle East, has been available for some time on satellite TV and YouTube. But seeing as I don’t have satellite and New York City Transit doesn’t have wi-fi on the subways, the video podcast is the friendliest way for me to access it.

The news segments, drawn from countries including Iraq, Lebanon and Dubai, as well as channels like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, are an intriguing shift in perspective from U.S. news, both in substance and style. Substance: remember the Israel-Palestinian peace talks? American TV news has largely forgotten them, after a blast of publicity around their resumption, but the most recent edition of Mosaic had a lengthy segment.

Style-wise, it’s a bit of a shock to hear a reference to the U.S.’s “so-called war on terror” when the phrase is used so automatically and uncritically in the U.S. media. Other differences in terminology seem blatantly calculated to cater to the views of the audience, especially in any report dealing with Israel. (A report on civilian land-mine casualties in the Negev desert refers to the Israeli air force firing missiles in the desert “whenever they please,” a loaded phrase that suggests pilots casually getting their jollies.)

The broadcasts are hardly bias-free, but then again, neither is American news. (If you think American TV doesn’t cater to viewers’ parochialism for ratings, you must have had something covering all the American flags in the corner of the screen after 9/11.) But seeing the assumptions embedded in these news reports–and comparing them with those in the American news we’re immersed in–is part of Mosaic’s news value. And it beats reading subway ads.