Lots of things on my mind; From Quora to Al Jazeera

This post is a bit disjointed, but maybe it will make some sense.

About 18 months ago I cancelled my cable TV subscription. I was thoroughly fed up with paying significant amounts of money each month to watch commercials. It was a sort of double dipping -but turned upside down and inside out! Here I pay for a service, and I am presented with complete rubbish that others have paid to put in front of me. What sounds wrong with that model? Well, I decided I was too smart to be deceived any longer. Whether I was smart or not, I couldn’t stand the commercials no matter what.

To counter some objecting voices I should also disclose that I tried a DVR for over a year, however the time-shifting, while marginally better, still turned out to be too much work to enjoy.

NetflixThe first few months without the cable channels, using Netflix (~$10/month) and Hulu (free at the time) were bliss – the family could watch a wide range of movies, documentaries and TV series with no or limited commercial interruption. We took control of the experience!

However after about 6 months I felt there was something missing. It took me some time to figure out that I wasn’t any longer able to keep a news channel on in the background – I always like having the TV news on as a background company, and having the choice of listening in when something interested went on.

For the longest time I tried CNN.com, KOMO5, CNBC and others. While they provided streaming from their websites, it was either packed with commercials or they only provided video snippets that required you to click through one after the other. There was nothing that you could just keep running in the background like I used to do with TV news.

Well, recently I felt starved of international news. I knew there were revolutions going on in the world and I wasn’t part of it. What to do?

Some friends of mine have been raving about Quora, the new online Question and Answer service, not dissimilar to LinkedIn Answers, Yahoo Answers and the long retired beta of Live Answers. So why not use it to find out real answers to pressing matters? I decided to do just that.

Al JazeeraMy question was simple, “Is there an online continuously streaming news service with limited advertising?” It took about 10 minutes for the answer to come through: http://english.aljazeera.net/watch_now/

My first thought was not positive. When I last checked out Al Jazeera, while traveling in Lebanon many years ago, I did not experience objective, professional, news coverage at par with CNN or the BBC. However it didn’t take long to realize that Al Jazeera now speak with a different voice, are extremely professional and bring in voices from many sides.

That was exactly what I was looking for – an online, continuous news program with no commercials and a professional cast!

For the next two hours I caught up on all the things I had missed, and really felt I got a much better insight into what goes on in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, China, India and New Zeeland. Not bad to suddenly have news coverage of more than half the population of the planet.

Now I only need one or more channels to cover the other half of the planet, with no advertising! Any suggestions?


  1. Bob Chapman says:

    There is one thing to advertising, though. You know who is paying the bills.

    While I have found English Al Jazeera to be a welcome addition to my regular web visits for their depth and sanity, I am wondering who pays the bills. Such a professional staff over a wide area costs money.

    I notice that, if you are in Canada, Al Jazeera is on cable systems. Is their primary funding from cable fees?

    Other services:
    Radio Canada International (various languages), http://www.rcinet.ca/
    Radio Nederlands Worldwide English, http://www.rnw.nl/english
    Radio Australia: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/waystolisten/

    • Håkan Söderbom says:

      Who funds Al Jazeera is a good question! While I believe the message, so far, is unbiased it is important to know what motivates them. I haven’t looked for the answer but will do so!

      Looking forward to exploring the other services you provided. Will come back with a report! Many thanks!!!