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I'm torn, because I really like Current and was hopeful they'd continue to expand the progressive market. But I do like Al Jazeera's coverage, and I'm happy that a deep-pockets company will be challenging the corporate pap that makes up so much of cable news. Some real coverage of Israeli/Palestian issues sure would be a change of pace:
Al Jazeera on Wednesday completed a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore and his business partners seven years ago.
Current will provide the pan-Arab news giant with something it has sought for years: a pathway into American living rooms. Current is available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes in the United States with cable or satellite service.
Rather than simply use Current to distribute its English-language channel, called Al Jazeera English and based in Doha, Qatar, Al Jazeera will create a new channel, called Al Jazeera America, based in New York. Roughly 60 percent of the programming will be produced in the United States, while the remaining 40 percent will come from Al Jazeera English.
Al Jazeera may absorb some Current TV staff members, according to people with knowledge of the deal who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But Current’s schedule of shows will most likely be dissolved in the spring.
“Al Jazeera is planning to invest significantly in building ‘Al Jazeera America,’ a network focused on international news for the American audience,” the Current chief executive Joel Hyatt said in an e-mail to staffers on Wednesday evening. Referring to Mr. Gore, he said, “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.”
The plan will bring Al Jazeera, which is financed by the government of Qatar, into closer competition with CNN and other news channels in the United States.
For Al Jazeera, the acquisition is a coming-of-age moment. A decade ago, the Arabic-language channel was reviled by American politicians for showing video tapes and messages from al Qaeda members and sympathizers. Now it is acquiring an American channel.
“They really want to be able to compete for American viewers, and they have to find some way to get on,” said Philip Seib, the director of the center on public diplomacy at the University of Southern California and the author of “The Al Jazeera Effect.”
Mr. Seib said access to Americans is important both for economic reasons, for the channel’s advertisers, and for “the journalistic legitimacy of their venture.”
Really? I think they do a pretty good job. I'd hate to see them become like what passes for journalism on American cable. Speaking of:
Time Warner Cable pulled the plug on Current TV just hours after news of the cable channel's sale to Al Jazeera became official.
"This channel is no longer available on Time Warner Cable," read an on-screen message where Current TV used to be found.
A Time Warner Cable spokesman said in a statement that "our agreement with Current will be terminated and we will no longer be carrying the channel."
"Time-Warner cable shows abject political and journalistic cowardice by dropping Current because of Al Jazeera deal," tweeted Dan Gilmor, a technology writer and founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University.
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