Al Jazeera America today announced its first four news anchors, including Richelle Carey, former weekday anchor for CNN’s HLN. Carey will join Jonathan Betz, Morgan Fogarty and Del Walters presenting live news throughout the day from Al Jazeera America’s studio in New York City. Betz is a former field reporter and fill-in anchor at the ABC affiliate station in Dallas. Fogarty was the main 10 PM anchor at the CW affiliate in Charlotte, NC. Walters spent more than two decades as an anchor at the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. Back in January, Al Jazeera coughed up a reported $500 million to buy Al Gore’s little-watched Current TV and replace it with Al Jazeera America, which is scheduled to launch next month, funded by the government of Qatar.
It’s the possible beginning of the end for a media consultant’s lawsuit against Al Gore and Current TV. John Terenzio wants $5M from his suit alleging that he was instrumental in Current’s $500M sale to Al Jazeera earlier this year — and that the former VP and his cable channel squeezed him out of the deal. But on Tuesday Superior Court Judge Ernest Goldsmith in San Francisco dismissed the defendants’ demurrer motion, finding that Terenzio failed to offer enough facts to establish “personal liability” on Gore’s part. The judge has given Terenzio 10 days to amend his complaint with new info. The case has moved relatively quickly since it was first filed in the spring. The plaintiff argued that Gore initially opposed Terenzio’s proposal to cut a deal with the news service backed by the government of Qatar, but ended up with an agreement that was virtually identical to the one he recommended. The new owner plans to use the asset to launch the new Al Jazeera America channel later this summer.
Al Jazeera America confirmed this morning it had signed a deal with former CNN star Soledad O’Brien to contribute to the network as “special correspondent.” O’Brien’s production company, Starfish Media Group will produce hourlong documentary specials for the cable network. “I look forward to beginning a relationship with Al Jazeera America, which has made a commitment to producing quality programming and pursuing underreported stories,” O’Brien said in the announcement, confirming speculation that started last week. As a correspondent, O’Brien will contribute short-form segments to the primetime current affairs mag America Tonight on the new network, which is funded by the government of Qatar.
O’Brien stepped down from CNN in March when network chief Jeff Zucker scrubbed her program Starting Point; he gave the time slot to Chris Cuomo’s New Day. At the time she left CNN, she formed Starfish Media, which, in addition to the production deal with Al Jazeera America, now also has a production deal with CNN, and development deals at HBO and National Geographic Channel.
Things got a little too warm when Al Gore took to the stage at the SXSW Interactive festival Saturday to talk about The Future — that is, his new book subtitled Six Drivers Of Global Change as well as the NRA, the internet and global warming, natch. AllThingsD editor Walt Mossberg took the opportunity to call the former VP on an inconvenient truth — not his movie, the hypocrisy of his sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera. “You sold your network to Al Jazeera, which is owned by a government that’s a big oil producer,” asked Mossberg. “How could you do that?” Gore eventually responded “I don’t ask you why you continue working for Rupert Murdoch.” Uh-oh. Mossberg parried, “Last I checked, he’s not in the oil business”. Gore retorted, “He’s also not strictly in the news business, either”.
Al Gore defended his sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera in an appearance this morning on Today, saying he was forced to sell because of tough competition from conglomerates. He also denied any hypocrisy in the $500 million sale to Qatar-based Al Jazeera, which is funded in large part with oil money. Gore, a staunch advocate for addressing climate change, told Matt Lauer he understood the criticism, but said Al Jazeera’s climate coverage was far superior to that of networks in the U.S. Gore, who made a reported $100M on the deal, was appearing on the NBC morning show to tout his new book The Future but got some hardball questions from Lauer along the way. Check out the video below:
UPDATE, 4 PM: Current TV CEO Joel Hyatt just confirmed the sale in a memo to staffers. “Getting this transaction done was very difficult,” he writes. (Read the network’s official statement after the original break of the story.) Since Time Warner Cable would not consent to the sale “Current will no longer be carried on TWC. This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead.” Time Warner Cable says that it is “removing the service as quickly as possible.” The loss of the No. 2 cable operator will hurt: Time Warner Cable has 12.2M video subscribers and Current reaches about 59M homes. Others also could follow Time Warner Cable’s lead as they look to prune their often bloated channel lineups. Al Jazeera has fought an uphill battle to win carriage on U.S. cable systems. Operators say it’s too expensive, and that there’s too little interest in the subjects it covers. Fans of the channel say it’s due to unreasonable fears that Al Jazeera’s content will be too controversial and possibly propagandistic. Al Jazeera fought back, and further infuriated cable execs, by live-streaming its English-language programming.
The channel co-founded by Al Gore said it is launching the week-in-review show John Fugelsang: So That Happened on Friday at 6 PM. And Fugelsang tweeted today that his as-yet-unnamed nightly primetime series will debut on the channel in November. A regular guest-host on Current TV the past few months, the comedian and former America’s Funniest Home Videos co-host has also appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends and MSNBC’s The Ed Show. Fugelsang is also scheduled to appear with Gore on Current’s coverage of the upcoming presidential debates starting Wednesday. Frank Conniff, who appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000, will be an on-air contributor to So That Happened as well head writer.
He used to be in the debates and now he’s reporting on them. Al Gore will anchor Current TV’s coverage of the first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney on October 3 in Denver. The former VP will be joined in the network’s NYC studios by Current TV hosts former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Cenk Uygur and comedian John Fugelsang. Earlier this summer, Gore, who co-founded Current TV in 2005, anchored the channel’s coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions.
Al Gore once stood on the podium accepting the Democratic Party’s nominations for both Vice-President and President. This year, the former VP will be up in the skybox reporting on both the DNC and the RNC for Current TV. The channel Gore co-founded made the announcement today:
New York, NY, August 8, 2012 – Vice President Al Gore will be leading Current TV’s coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Coverage of the Republican National Convention (RNC) begins August 27th from 7pm – 11pm EST and will continue for all four nights, concluding on August 30th. Coverage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) begins on September 4th from 7pm – 11pm EST and will conclude on September 6th. Vice President Gore will be joined by former Michigan Governor and “The War Room” host, Jennifer Granholm, former New York Governor and “Viewpoint” host, Eliot Spitzer and “The Young Turks” host, Cenk Uygur. Additionally, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom will join the panel for the RNC coverage.
Current TV will feature reporting with real-time analysis and detailed coverage of the 2012 conventions. David Shuster and Michael Shure will report from both conventions. Also contributing will be new Current TV hosts Joy Behar and John Fugelsang. “I’m pleased to be participating in Current TV’s impressive line-up throughout the Republican and Democratic National Conventions,” said Vice President Al Gore. “Cenk, Jennifer and Eliot provide the keen insight and spot-on analysis our viewers have come to expect, combined with decades of experience in public service and a deep understanding of politics. I have no doubt that our coverage will be innovative and informative, and I look forward to working with them.”
Current California Lieutenant Governor and longtime liberal talking head Gavin Newsom has landed his own show on Current TV. The former San Francisco mayor, who briefly ran for California governor in 2009, will host the weekly hourlong talker The Gavin Newsom Show beginning next month. The network said in making the announcement today that the show will have a California focus, interviewing “notables from Silicon Valley, Hollywood and beyond.” Former Forbes and CNN executive Mia Haugen will executive produce. “Gavin Newsom is a courageous leader who has boldly seized every opportunity to create positive social change,” Current TV chairman Al Gore said. “First as a successful entrepreneur, then in his role as Mayor of San Francisco, and now as Lieutenant Governor, Newsom touches many worlds — business, politics, entertainment and activism. We are honored that Current TV will be bringing his curiosity, intelligence, insights and enthusiasm to television.” Current is on the hunt for new voices after the abrupt and nasty departure of network linchpin Keith Olbermann in March. The anchor made good on his word to sue Current and its bosses Gore and Joel Hyatt, claiming breach of contract and that Gore and Hyatt undermined him and ignored his suggestions and concerns about the network. Current’s lineup now includes Eliot Spitzer, Cenk Uygur and Jennifer Granholm.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
The mercurial Keith Olbermann — who reportedly clashed with his bosses at Current TV last week over whether he would be leading the fledgling network’s election coverage — tellingly wasn’t on hand this afternoon for a Current panel at TCA. Regarding Olbermann’s absence, Current president David Bohrman would say only, “Keith is on vacation.” As for Olbermann’s purported unwillingness to be a part of Current’s campaign coverage, “Keith will do our special election coverage going forward,” Bohrman said. “That’s what we want him to do. That was one of the key reasons he was brought to Current. So I expect that you will see Keith going forward leading our election coverage, and that’s what we want him to do.” When pressed, he added, “I can’t really be much more clear. We had approached Keith to do election coverage a couple of months ago. He declined. We have now been told by Keith that he will lead our coverage going forward and that is what we want to do.”
On another front, Bohrman and Current co-founder Joel Hyatt confirmed to Deadline following the panel that Current UK in England has been dropped from satcaster BSkyB’s subscription tier two months before the contract was up. The withdrawal of funding will force the channel to be shuttered in a move that mirrors the …
UPDATE, 12:45 PM: Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm will anchor The War Room from San Francisco so she and her husband can continue with their temporary appointments teaching at the University of California at Berkeley. She’ll also continue to appear on Meet The Press. Granholm says her show will focus primarily on politics and public policy with a special focus on “solutions to the most pressing problems out there.” But she hopes to leven the mix by regularly featuring contributions from satirist Brett Erlich as well as viewer-generated content such as videos from the campaign trail. Granholm describes herself as being “on the left end of the spectrum” but with views that were shaped by her experience as “a pragmatic governor.” Current co-founder Al Gore says that he’ll appear from time to time on the network’s shows, including Granholm’s — and may participate in coverage of election news events. Although Granholm has no experience as a talk show host, the former vice president says he’s confident that she’ll be a fast learner: “If she had not been born in Canada, she’d be a leading candidate for president,” he says.
Here’s Current’s release:
The addition of The Young Turks is part of a larger plan to turn Current TV into an all-news network — described by CEO Joel Hyatt as “a new news network for a new kind of news viewer.” The channel’s chairman, former Vice President Al Gore, added in a brief press conference that “you won’t have to wait that long” for an announcement about another on-air hire. It would likely be for a show to follow Countdown With Keith Olbermann, which airs at 8 PM ET. Uygur says that he will continue to host his two-hour daily show on YouTube in addition to his new one on Current, which he descibes as “a gathering place for progressives to meet and discuss the issues of the day.” The network says it has no ratings target for the show, which will be broadcast from Los Angeles. Here’s the release about Uygur’s new show:
Following last month’s executive shakeup at Current TV in which CEO Mark Rosenthal abruptly resigned and was replaced by co-founder Joel Hyatt, the fledgling cable network has hired veteran news executive David Bohrman as president. Bohrman, who starts immediately, will be based in New York and San Francisco and will oversee programming, production, broadcast operations, digital and technology, working closely with co-founders Hyatt and Al Gore as well as Current’s Chief News Officer Keith Olbermann, the network says. “Current’s mission has always been to shine a light on important issues, to spark debate and to speak truth to power,” Gore said. “David Bohrman passionately shares our vision. He has innovation in his DNA, and he has the unique qualifications and relationships to take Current to a whole new level in programming and production.” For the past decade, Bohrman was CNN’s SVP Programming and Washington, DC bureau chief, and in May of this year, he became CNN’s SVP and Chief Innovation Officer Worldwide. Before that, he executive produced NBC News’ special news events from 1993-1997 and was part of MSNBC’s launch team, where he created The Site and Imus in the Morning. For 13 years before that Bohrman was at ABC News, where he was a senior producer and part of the launch team of Nightline and executive producer of World News Now.