Al Jazeera’s U.S. News Service ‘AJ+’ Ordered to Register as Foreign Agent by DOJ

Al Jazeera+, the English-language online news service of Qatar-based news organization Al Jazeera, has been ordered by the Justice Department to register as a foreign agent operating in the United States.

In a Sept. 14 letter from the DOJ, the government says AJ+ should be subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), claiming the streaming video platform engages in political activities on behalf of the Qatar government.

“Journalism designed to influence American perceptions of a domestic policy issue or a foreign nation’s activities or its leadership qualifies as ‘political activities’ under the statutory definition,”  Jay Bratt, the counterintelligence chief at the DOJ, wrote in the letter.

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AJ+, which produces videos for social media in English, Arabic, French and Spanish, has offices in Doha and Washington, D.C. The FARA determination would only apply to the English-language AJ+ based in the U.S.

The letter came the day before the Trump Administration announced an accord between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Al Jazeera claims the DOJ action is a condition of the UAE/Israel agreement since it claims the UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt, has sought to impose an economic blockade on Qatar, alleging the country has ties with Iran — claims the country denies.

“The UAE has confirmed it presented the United States with preconditions prior to announcing the Abraham Accords, and we received DOJ’s letter the day before the UAE signed the Accords,” Al Jazeera said in a statement to The New York Times. “Hobbling Al Jazeera was one of the top conditions of the UAE’s blockade against Qatar and the Justice Department just gave the UAE what it wanted,” the statement said.

Patrick Toomey, senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, assailed the FARA designation on AJ+ as politics by the Trump Administration.

“This order is a threat to the freedom of the press,” Toomey said in a statement. “People in the United States rely on dedicated news organizations for reporting on world events and the human impact of our government’s policies around the globe. The government should not misuse a vague and overboard ‘foreign agent’ law to target news organizations for political purposes.”

Report: Netflix a Fiscal Deal in Colombia; Less So in Iran

Netflix invented the loss-leader subscription streaming video-on-demand market, a business model that has essentially upended how Hollywood markets movies and TV shows to consumers.

But apparently that’s not enough of an incentive for some pundits.

An extensive report by London-based research firm Comparitech analyzed in which country Netflix  offered the best/least economic value to consumers.

In short, Netflix Colombia and Netflix India offer the best value to subscribers, while Netflix Iran  and Netflix Denmark offer the least value following analysis of 77 countries the Los Gatos, Calif.-based service offers service. The SVOD behemoth is available in 190 countries.

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Comparitech took the total number of movies and TV shows Netflix offers in country analyzed and then divided that number by the monthly subscription price — from basic to premium tier.

Notably, despite offering the most content in the United States, Netflix America did not rank among the Top 10 economically favorable (or unfavorable) markets for subscribers.

Indeed, the report found the United Kingdom fell out of the Top 10 when factoring in premium plans. The U.S. dropped to 18th from 13th when upgrading from basic to premium service.

Comparitech said the average cost of a title (worldwide) is $0.00202 for basic plan subscribers, $0.00134 for standard subs, and $0.00085 for premium.

Thus, the average Netflix sub globally pays 55% more per title for a basic plan than Colombians, and about 50% more per title for standard and premium plans than do subs in India.

Colombia also offers the least expensive Netflix monthly subscription at $4.90 per month for basic service. This is 60% less than the comparable basic plan in the United States; 50% cheaper than the premium plan.

On the flipside, basic subscribers ($9.99) in Iran pay an average of $0.00347 per title, based on a catalog of 2,301 titles, including 586 TV shows and 1,715 movies.

Basic subs ($14.84) in Denmark pay $0.00336 per title based on a catalog of 3,525 titles, including 1,063 TV shows and 2,462 movies.