Hauling four boxes that contained the printouts of 13,000 e-mails of support to the Comcast Center, Al Antsey of the Al-Jazeera network pressed his case in Philadelphia this week to expand U.S. distribution of the Qatar-based 24-hour news channel.
It's time, he told officials with the nation's largest cable operator, to cast aside misperceptions of the Arabic news station as tainted with anti-American bias and join the rest of the world.
There are about 250 million households around the globe with access to Al-Jazeera English - arguably the most sophisticated English-language news organization covering the Middle East - but only about three million of those households are in the United States, on scattered cable operators in Washington; Burlington, Vt.; and Toledo, Ohio.
With viewership on its Internet site up sharply because of Al-Jazeera's news coverage of the political upheaval in Tunisia and Egypt, Antsey said he believes that this is a "turning point" for the news channel and he is making the rounds of the U.S. pay-TV operators.
"We had a very fruitful meeting," Antsey said, noting that during his talks at the Comcast Center, the tallest U.S. building between New York and Chicago, he had "a fantastic view of the city over the city we would like to broadcast our news."
A Comcast spokeswoman confirmed that the cable operator met with Al-Jazeera officials but would not comment on programming negotiations or discussions.
One of the reasons that Antsey traveled with the 13,000 e-mails was to show that there were viewers with a real interest in the channel.
He had other statistics, too. Antsey said traffic on the Al-Jazeera English website spiked after the recent political tumult and that 10 million minutes of live Al-Jazeera programming is now streamed daily over the Internet, with 45 percent of the views coming in the United States. "That tells us there is demand for Al-Jazeera in the United States," he said.