Current TV, the progressive media company co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, has being acquired by international satellite cable network Al Jazeera. According to the NY Times, which broke the news of the deal, Current's availability in over 60 million homes made it an attractive buy for Al Jazeera; which reportedly has sought access to the American television market for years.
"Rather than simply use Current to distribute its existing English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel based in New York, according to people with knowledge of the deal negotiations," writes Brian Stelter. "Potentially called Al Jazeera America, roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English."
Current, launched in the U.S. in 2005, has struggled for years to find a voice - starting off with user-generated content and "webisodes" before transitioning to more news-focused and documentary programming. The network had hopes for a ratings surge after signing former MSNBC “Countdown” anchor Keith Olbermann in 2011, but the two parted ways last March without much having changed. Former NY Governor Eliot Spitzer, who now hosts the timeslot previously held by Olbermann, recently admitted that the network was performing poorly.
Spitzer appears to be getting his wish - but it may not be the outcome he's hoping for. The Times (which at one point considered buying the network) says that most of Current's programming schedule will likely be retired in the spring.
In a memo to employees announcing the acqusition, Current chief executive Joel Hyatt said he and Al Gore were both impressed with Al Jazeera's journalistic integrity, vast international resources, and position as a major global media player.
"When considering the several suitors who were interested in acquiring Current, it became clear to us that Al Jazeera was founded with the same goals we had for Current: To give voice to those whose voices are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the important stories that no one else is telling," he writes. "Al Jazeera, like Current, believes that facts and truth lead to a better understanding of the world around us."
"Al and I will both serve on the Advisory Board of Al Jazeera America, and we look forward to helping build an important news network," he added.