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Vt. System Keeps Al Jazeera

The municipally owned cable system in Burlington, Vt., has reached an agreement to continue to carry the controversial service Al Jazeera English, the city said last Wednesday.

In a press release, Burlington Telecom said it was not disclosing the terms of its newly forged carriage deal with Al Jazeera English, the international channel based in Doha, Qatar.

The cable system has been offering the network since January 2007 on its “second-level tiers of channels,” not basic service, the statement said.

“We very much appreciate the support of our small but very significant audience in Burlington, Vermont,” said Will Stebbins, Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera English. “It's a testament to the fact that if you actually see our channel, it's impossible to have any of the misunderstandings,” he said.

“All the misunderstandings and the mystery and the mischaracterizations about who we are disappear the moment that you see our channel,” he added. “We are a very valuable international news source, and that was clearly recognized in Burlington, Vt., by those who have actually had the chance to see us.”

The Burlington Telecom Advisory Committee and the local Cable Advisory Committee had both recently reviewed whether or not the cable system should continue to carry Al Jazeera English, with at least one meeting in May.

As it turns out, both committees jointly and unanimously recommended that Burlington Telecom keep the channel. That recommendation was forwarded to the cable system, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss and the city council.

Al Jazeera English has struggled to secure distribution in the United States, only getting carried in a handful of systems, including Buckeye CableSystem in Toledo, Ohio.