Al Jazeera, the Qatar-financed news company, is finalizing a deal to acquire Current TV, the beleaguered cable network founded by failed presidential candidate Al Gore, reports the New York Times:
If the deal is completed, 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 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. 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.
Al Jazeera may absorb some Current TV staff members, according to the people, 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.
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.
This is not the first sign of trouble for Current; earlier this year, the network faced the risk of being removed from one cable carrier because of its low ratings.
The Times reports Current’s programming lineup is likely to be cleared. That slate currently includes such luminaries as former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm who is, at times, “high on democracy” and Cenk Uygur, who believes former President George W. Bush “didn’t want to get” Osama bin Laden. Former New York governor Eliot Spitzer earlier this year replaced the network’s most infamous personality, Keith Olbermann, who threatened to sue the network after his exit.
Gavin Newsom also has a show on Current, while simultaneously serving as the lieutenant governor of California.