Al Jazeera closes deal to buy Current TV

Jan 3, 2013

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Staff members of Al-Jazeera prepare for a broadcast in Doha, Qatar. Credit: Deborah Amos/NPR

The Qatar-based media company Al Jazeera has purchased former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV. The cost of Current is rumored to be $500 million, with a $100 million payout to Gore. Current has been struggling to establish itself as a news and talk show on par with the likes of Fox News or MSNBC.

In fact, a 2011 attempt to stage itself as a liberal news source by hiring Keith Olbermann backfired after he repeatedly clashed with management and left. While other major news channels can be found in approximately 100 million homes, Current has a measly 60 million. For these reasons, Current has long seemed doomed to low ratings, small audience shares and poor revenues.

But the purchase by Al Jazeera now has media critics and experts turning their heads. The company, which is run by Qatar’s state government, is widely respected as an unbiased source of straight information, without sensationalized opinions that have come to dominate most cable news outlets here in the United States. Meanwhile, conservatives are up in arms over the fact that Gore recently declined to even entertain an offer from Glenn Beck to purchase the channel. A possible complication might be that Time Warner Cable did not agree to the deal and will drop Current from its lineup, which presently provides the channel with 15 percent of its potential audience.

How do you feel about this deal? Is Current salvageable at this point? And what exactly are the details of the deal between the two companies? What will the face of Al Jazeera’s American presence look like once it all shakes out? Will you watch?  


Bob Wheelock, Executive Producer for the Americas, Al Jazeera English, based in their Washington, D.C. office; formerly with ABC News

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