Al Jazeera purchases Al Gore's 'Current TV' for 500 million dollars, plans to replace it with 'Al Jazeera America'

Al Jazeera logoCurrent TV logo

The Al Gore founded cable news network Current TV has been rumored to be on the way out almost since its very inception. Available on most cable and satellite systems only as a non-basic digital channel placed somewhere relatively high on the dial, Current has been repeatedly slammed by critics for both its seeming lack of focused coverage, and its odd hodgepodge of programming.

The only show to garner much acclaim was the "Vanguard" series of documentaries, which is probably why it survived the transition to a more MSNBC-esque left-leaning political news network in 2011. The addition of liberal firebrands like Keith Olbermann and Cenk Uygur brought a small amount of hope that Current could carve out its own small niche in the cable news landscape, but neither show brought in enough new viewers to right the overall ship, and Olbermann got publicly fired yet again after a spat with executives. New hosts were brought in to shore up primetime, but from there it seemed that the writing was on the wall.

Which brings us to yesterday afternoon's announcement of the effective end of Current TV. News broke mid-afternoon that Qatar based news giant Al Jazeera was in final negotiations to purchase the network from Al Gore and his business partner Joel Hyatt. Rather than simply take over Current, AJ plans to start a new NYC based channel called "Al Jazeera America", which would theoretically assume Current's current (sorry) placement on cable systems nationwide. I use the word theoretically due to the fact that within hours of the initial announcement, Time Warner Cable (one of the largest television providers in America) made it clear that they would not carry the new network. There are already worries that other providers may follow TWC's lead, both due to Al Jazeera's generally negative reputation in the USA (although whether you feel that it is deserved or not is up to you), and for the sheer fact that Current itself drew so badly as it was.

As a TWC/Bright House customer myself, I'm annoyed that TWC has decided not to carry the channel before it even airs. How can I as a consumer determine if something is worth watching if I'm not even given the opportunity to sample its programming? I will be interested to see how this whole thing shakes out, as Al Jazeera English (which already broadcasts to multiple English speaking countries abroad) is staffed mostly by former BBC employees, and generally has a solid reputation for journalism. On the other hand, AJ's Arabic channel has developed a reputation as a kind of "propaganda" network in the USA. I can definitely see protests happening based solely on that, despite the fact that AJ English is a completely separate division from the "home" Al Jazeera network.

What do you fine people think? Would you be interested in giving Al Jazeera America a chance to win your viewership? Is it fair for cable providers to hold the reputation of the Arabic Al Jazeera channel against this new venture?

- Al Gore

Written by: msd85
Jan 3rd, 2013, 6:59 am


Level 2 (54%)
Points: 1.4
Since: 26/Apr/11
Message Posted On Jan 3rd, 2013, 12:43 pm

Al Jazeera have been struggling ever since they started their English channel to become available in the US. As you say, the channel has a very good reputation for its journalistic values, and is made up of people from all around the world, particularly many former BBC employees. Al Jazeera can be received throughout pretty much every country in the world—except for the States. It's a bit ridiculous. Although Google/YouTube have launched a partnership with them, and have in fact been providing a live stream for several years now.


Regarding the providers, I want to say that it's pretty insulting to the American people that they consider them so simple-minded that they'd be outraged against, or afraid of, something simply because it has a foreign-sounding name. On the other hand, some such tendencies can't be denied, like when you get into trouble if you want to travel to the States with a Middle Eastern name (as if an actual terrorist wouldn't be travelling as "Joe Smith"). Some such people are out there, and are quick to stir a shitstorm if their local provider actually does take up the channel (it's happened before). So some providers probably think that serving the few who'd be interested in the channel (actual news isn't as popular these days) wouldn't be worth the risk of riling up heaven knows how many lunatics.


Al Jazeera is my news channel of choice. I think BBC and CNN are okay as well in terms of objectivity and journalistic values, but what I like about AJ is that they cover all the corners of the world, not just "the West", where the money is. You know how people sometimes complain that our media doesn't care about war, hunger, poverty, child mortality in third-world countries etc. simply because they're too far away for us to care? AJ is pretty much the only channel out there that isn't like that, and tries to give a voice to the disenfranchised, to those we tend to conveniently forget. That they usually have local journalists report from their home countries, rather than sending over generic correspondents, is another nice touch. They're one of the few who still do actual, investigative journalism, and who risk their own safety to report from war zones (ever notice how in those situations, 99% of footage you see on any channel is courtesy of Al Jazeera?). Of course it's still a business and everything, but I find their idealism, which you can still feel in most of their reporters, very refreshing and beautiful.


As for the Arabic Al Jazeera and its reputation in the West, I don't think it is deserved either. All you hear in our parts is that they aired Bin Laden's tapes. What they didn't tell us is that they did so only after considering what parts to cut out, and always followed it up with a diverse and moderate discussion panel. They didn't "offer a mouthpiece to terrorists"—they reported the news, responsibly. Don't forget that Al Jazeera is considered one of the major forces of liberal reform in the Middle East, and behind the so-called Arab Spring. They revolutionised the local media landscape by providing independent journalism where before there were only state-controlled, dictator-mandated propaganda channels. They are to the Middle East now what BBC Radio was to occupied WWII Europe.


And finally, consider the fact that they were, or are, attacked vigorously from both sides. Rumsfeld called them an instrument of the terrorists, Al Qaeda called them a puppet of the American imperialists. I think that's a pretty fine sign that you're reporting on all sides of the issue.

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