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Thursday 18 September 2014

Al-Jazeera buys Gore's Current TV

Published 03/01/2013 | 03:30

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Al-Jazeera has acquired Current TV (AP/Kamran Jebreili)

Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Al Gore's Current TV, boosting its reach nearly nine-fold to about 40 million homes.

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With a focus on US news, it plans to rebrand the left-leaning news network that co-founder Mr Gore could not make relevant.

The former US vice president confirmed the sale, saying Al-Jazeera shared Current TV's mission "to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no-one else is telling".

The acquisition lifts Al-Jazeera's reach beyond a few large US metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al-Jazeera English.

Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a new channel called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new US bureaux beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists.

Al-Jazeera spokesman Stan Collender said there were no rules against foreign ownership of a cable channel - unlike the strict rules limiting foreign ownership of free-to-air TV stations. He said the move was based on demand, adding that 40% of viewers on Al-Jazeera English's website were from the US

"This is a pure business decision based on recognised demand," he said. "When people watch Al-Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal."

Al-Jazeera has long struggled to get carriage in the US, and the deal suffered an immediate casualty as Time Warner Cable, the nation's second-largest cable TV operator, announced it would drop Current TV due to the deal.

"Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible," the company said.

Before Al-Jazeera's purchase, Current TV was in 60 million homes.

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