Two months ago Al Jazeera, the cable news network owned by the government of Qatar, spent $500 million last year to buy Current TV, which can be seen on cable channels in 41 million homes, thanks to from former partner Vice President Al Gore and other investors.
Amusingly, the sale comes with the option that cable operators can drop Al Jazeera from their channel lineup. Time Warner has already suggested it might do just that.
The network is quick to remind American viewers that Al Jazeera America, will be editorially separate from the Doha-based broadcast center that is also home to Al Jazeera English.
The explanation comes at a time when many in this country are protesting Al Jazeera, Arab version, as anti-America and pro-terrorist and sympathizer to western world enemies.
Bob Wheelock, the former ABC executive who has been placed in charge of starting American operations says, “Imagine six or seven years ago, trying to find real estate for Al Jazeera in Washington. I’m sure it wasn’t easy,” he told USA Today.
Wheelock insists Al Jazeera will come to be respected in the same fashion that CBS, ABC, CNN, NBC have accomplished.
That remains to be seen and it’s no secret many in the television community are more than a bit skeptical of such an operation emanating from the government of Qatar.
Al Jazeera English was actually on the air back in 2006, but received little if any support from cable systems or online sites. Although it won various broadcasting awards, including coverage of the Arab Spring, no groundswell of support had followed.
Enter Al Gore and his Current TV people. Their cable operation was floundering with ratings barely acceptable to the FCC to remain on the air. Al Jazeera discovered a positive business deal to change their U.S. image with the additional “credibility “of Al Gore made the property irresistible.
Al Jazeera submitted a bid to Al Gore and his Current TV partners for what TV insiders claimed was three to four times what the company was worth.
Although Al Gore and his partners attempted to seal the deal prior to the new tax increases on the wealthy last January first, the actual signing of documents came January 2.
The American version of the network has big plans for fiscal 2013. They plan to increase staff from 13 to some 200 people across the country. A new broadcast center is planned for Washington, expansion of its facilities at the UN in New York and news bureaus around the country including San Francisco, Detroit and six other U.S. cities.
The once scorned Qatar-based Arab TV network with affiliations including several known enemy organizations of the U.S. that also includes entire countries, will now have full press access to White House contacts, government officials and vital national security locations.
Thus, it also makes sense that more than 100 reporters, producers, videographers, and online writers have above and beyond those hired have sent resumes to the network of which there is no security clearance as to their backgrounds or affiliations.
The FBI, CIA and Homeland Security have a better understanding of American intelligence targets such as the Russians and Chinese.
It is reported that Al Gore himself made hundreds of millions in the deal that now provides solid footing for Al Jazeera on American soil.
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