Al Gore Sells Current TV To Al-Jazeera
It’s a tale of two Als. Former vice-president Al Gore has sold his long-struggling cable television network Current TV to the Pan-Arab news channel Al-Jazeera for a reported $500 million Jan. 2. According to the Associated Press, the acquisition is expected to expand Al-Jazeera’s reach ninefold to about 40 million American households, but is not without controversy. The network, which focuses on U.S. news, has already been dropped by Time Warner Cable, the second-largest cable TV provider in the US, which announced it would remove the channel from its lineup as soon as possible. Current TV is currently available in about 60 million homes. Neither Comcast nor DirecTV have announced any plans to drop the channel.
Gore, however, hopes Al-Jazeera—owned by the Qatar government—will continue Current TV’s focus on reporting truth. He issued a statement that Al-Jazeera shares Current TV’s mission “to give a voice to those who are not typically heard, to speak truth to power, to provide independent and diverse points of view, and to tell the stories that no one else is telling.”
Currently, Al-Jazeera runs an English-speaking channel that reaches about 4.7 million households in only a few large U.S. metropolitan areas, including New York and Washington. According to a statement issued by Al-Jazeera spokesman Stan Collender, the channel hopes to gradually transform Current into a new channel—Al-Jazeera America—and add five to 10 additional US bureaus as well as hire more journalists.
“This is a pure business decision based on recognized demand,” Collender said. “When people watch Al Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal.”
Gore founded Current TV in 2005 to promote user-generated content, but instead the network has become a more conventional news channel with a liberal slant. MSNBC is more highly rated among households seeking a liberal news network. It has averaged only about 42,000 viewers in prime time for shows starring former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
The fledgling Al-Jazeera America channel may have even more difficulty finding viewers. The organization has oft been criticizes for it’s pro-Islamist bias, and has even been accused of working with Al Qaeda members. In 2011 and Al-Jazeera journalist was arrested in Israel on suspicion of being an agent of Hamas. The English news network, however, will have a separate staff and budget from the Arabic network, which launched in 1996, according to the New York Daily News.
“There are still people who will not watch it, who will say that it’s a ‘terrorist network,‘” Philip Seib, the author of “The Al Jazeera Effect,” told the New York Times.
With his 20-percent stake in the network, Gore will net $100 million from the sale.
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