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Mr. Gore's Neighborhood By: Lowell Ponte
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, April 07, 2005


FORMER VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE ONCE CLAIMED, absurdly, that he invented the Internet.

On April 4 the defeated 2000 Democratic presidential candidate announced that he is re-inventing television with “Current TV,” a new youth-oriented satellite channel scheduled to commence full operation on August 1st.

“We have no intention of being a Democratic channel, a liberal channel, or a TV version of Air America [Radio],” said Gore, 57, last Monday, referring to the pseudo-liberal Democratic Party propaganda network. “It is not in any way an ideological, much less partisan point of view in any respect. It will have the point of view of the young generation.”

 

But when we look behind the screen at Mr. Gore’s partners and moneymen in this video venture, it’s easy to see why skeptics have already labeled the emerging channel “DNC TV.”

 

Lurking behind Current TV’s Chairman of the Board Al Gore, its Chief Executive Officer is Joel Hyatt, former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Among the network’s largest investors, movers and shapers are several prominent left-liberal and Democratic Party activists and kingmakers.

 

The Current TV channel Gore and Hyatt described last Monday will create approximately half of its programs. The other half of its airtime filled by features created and donated by its viewers, using home video cameras and software that will be available at the Current TV web site. The typical viewer contribution will be three minutes or less long. How video submissions will be selected for airing remains vague.

 

In May 2004 INdTV Holdings LLC, an investment group founded by Gore and millionaire entrepreneur Hyatt, purchased Newsworld International from French conglomerate Vivendi Universal SA. The parties refused to divulge the purchase price, but America’s business press generally pegged the cost at approximately $70 million.

 

Newsworld International (NWI) describes itself as North America’s largest 24-hour cable and satellite television channel devoted to international news. It airs news programming from several nations and nominally has its own news bureaus in Washington, D.C., Paris, Jerusalem, Moscow and Beijing.

 

In April 2005 NWI could be seen in almost 19 million U.S. homes, 11 million of these via the DirecTV satellite subscriber service owned by Rupert Murdoch (whose News Corporation also owns Fox Broadcasting, its Fox News Channel and other media entities). DirecTV, plus a few cable systems, have agreed to carry this channel after it metamorphoses into Current TV.

 

For the time being, announced INdTV Holdings, NWI will continue airing the programs it did under Vivendi Universal ownership. NWI programs have been selected or produced by the Canadian Government-owned Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), which has a contract that puts it in control of the network’s programming through at least May 2005.

 

“We program the network,” the CBC’s Ruth-Ellen Soles told Chicago Tribune reporters Leon Lazaroff and John Cook. “If [Gore and Hyatt] come to us and say, ‘We’ve got this great programming, will you put it on?’ we’ll look at it as we would any acquisition. If it’s good, and if it meets our standards, we’ll look at it. They’re not going to do anything unilaterally – it’ll be discussion and negotiation.”

 

Newsworld International was founded in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1994. “The channel was once owned by the CBC and Power Corp.,” reported Broadcaster Magazine, “which sold it and another cable channel, Trio, to U.S. media baron Barry Diller, before he sold his stake to Vivendi.”

 

For the time being, noted Newsmax.com, Gore’s new network “will not even be American,” at least until May 2005 or beyond. The Canadian socialist government network CBC will continue to produce its programming and, said Gore, will continue to provide some of its content even after his makeover. But the CBC tilts so far to the Left that, according to CanadaFreePress.com, some Canadians refer to it as “The Communist Broadcasting Corporation.”

 

If he who pays the piper calls the tune, then what does it mean that pied piper Gore’s partner and many of Current TV’s key investors have strong links to the ideological Left and Democratic Party? 

 

Gore’s partner Joel Hyatt, in addition to his DNC ties, was the 1994 Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio, defeated when he ran for the vacated seat of his liberal father-in-law Senator Howard Metzenbaum. Hyatt became wealthy from franchising legal help, part of which made ambulance-chasing trial lawyers as available in Ohio as McDonald’s hamburgers. The controversy surrounding the cold-hearted firing of an HIV-infected lawyer by Hyatt Legal Services may have inspired the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia.

 

In 1999 millionaire Democratic contributor Hyatt was appointed by California’s Democratic Governor Gray Davis to a six-year term (at a taxpayer-paid salary of more than $98,000 per year for little work) on the state’s Public Utilities Commission shortly before Davis’ mismanagement of the state’s electricity supply caused a financial crisis that led to Governor Davis being recalled by voters. As Los Angeles Times leftwing columnist Robert Scheer noted, Hyatt is tainted in these and other matters.

 

INdTV Holding has taken major funding from two equity investment firms. One is venture capital company Blum Capital Partners in San Francisco chaired by Richard Blum, husband of California Democratic U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. The other is Los Angeles-based Yucaipa Companies, which has invested mostly in grocery stores and is headed by big-time Democratic Party fundraiser Ron Burkle. Among the board members of Yucaipa Companies are former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

 

(Burkle reportedly also bankrolled an $850 million failed bid by Jackson’s son Yusef in May 2004 to purchase the troubled company that owns the Chicago Sun-Times, one of that city’s two biggest newspapers. Burkle as America’s biggest owner of grocery stores also supplied part of the “arm-twisting” that led Anheuser-Busch to give a Chicago beer distributorship worth $35 million a year to Jackson’s sons Yusef and Jonathan.)

 

Gore and Hyatt have also persuaded at least 21 other individuals to invest in Current TV.  One is Real Networks Inc. Chairman Rob Glaser, who also invested in the purportedly “liberal” but actually Democratic Party-sock-puppet network Air America Radio. Glaser’s tax-exempt Glaser Progress Foundation is also the largest single investor in the extreme leftwing satellite network Free Speech TV (FSTV).

 

Another Current TV investor is Sun Microsystems co-founder and former executive Bill Joy, whose company contributed heavily to the Clinton-Gore ticket and profited when the Clinton-Gore Administration brought Federal legal action against Sun competitor Microsoft Corporation. Other investors include former (AOL) Time Warner co-Chief Operating Officer Bob Pittman, who helped create the Viacom conglomerate’s cable music channel MTV; former Warner Brothers executive Warren Lieberfarb; and commercial real estate investors Melvin and Bren Simon and Albert Dwoskin. 

 

Another Current TV investor is Hollywood actor Bradley Whitford, who plays a character resembling Clinton Administration operative George Stephanopoulos on “The West Wing,” a weekly TV drama set in a fictional Democratic White House so ideologically skewed that critics have dubbed this political soap opera “The Left Wing.”

 

The Gore channel’s advisory board includes Orville Schell, dean of the Journalism School at the University of California Berkeley, a figure whose politics have tracked so far to the extreme Left that friend David Horowitz, President of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, has described Schell as a “Gucci Marxist.”

 

Another Current TV advisory board member is Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Computer and CEO of Pixar Animation Studios, maker of hit animated movies such as “Finding Nemo.” Gore sits on the Board of Apple Computer and has approved plans to make access to Current TV programs via its web site accessible in much the same way the “shuffle” function works on Apple’s successful ipod.)

 

With Gore and Hyatt at their April 2005 announcement was Sergey Brin, 31-year-old billionaire co-founder of Google, who praised the innovations of Current TV.  The new network will use a forthcoming Google tool to search personal video submissions. Current TV will also feature each hour a rundown of what topics people worldwide are currently searching for on Google, a way of taking the pulse of what the planet’s computer-using brains are probing hour by hour.

 

Gore has also reportedly consulted with movie director Spike Jonze, Cable News Network (CNN) executive Keith McAllister, and Executive Vice President of Programming at the Viacom channel VH1 Michael Hirschorn.

 

In April 2005 Gore and Hyatt announced that Current TV’s President of programming would be CNN’s chief programming officer David Neuman.

 

With such people behind the shaping of Current TV, it seems unlikely that the result could be entirely apolitical. And lest we forget, Gore himself is an ideological extremist who ran an anti-capitalism, class warfare populist campaign in 2000. When authorities at last tracked the Unibomber to his Montana cabin, one thing they found there was Gore’s environkook book Earth in the Balance, heavily underlined and full of approving marginal notes, under the killer lunatic’s pillow.

 

“Liberal TV is dead on arrival,” a Gore advisor told Advertising Age magazine in late 2003. “You just can’t do it” because such a partisan, one-sided network would alienate advertisers, viewers and especially the young.

 

Gore and Hyatt accordingly have opted to attract young viewers with liberal doses of other fare. As Current TV’s head of sales and marketing, they have hired Anne Kallin Zehren, the publisher who launched the successful People Magazine spinoff Teen People.

 

One of Current TV’s hired on-air stars will be Gotham Chopra, author of the comic book and 2002 movie Bulletproof Monk, and veteran anchor and reporter familiar to the eight million in-class school viewers of Channel One, and son of best-selling New Age author Deepak Chopra .   Born in Boston, Chopra (who changed his birth name Gautama to the “more hip” Gotham) has made frequent visits to his ancestral India. His interests range from multiculturalism to mysticism, aromatherapy and comic books. Born in February 1977, he is a TV star to a generation that grew up watching Channel One, the young audience Current TV and its advertisers want to attract.

 

Among Current TV’s available “pods” of web-accessible information for its pod-people viewers will be “Current Soul” (“trends in spiritual awakening”), “Current Parent” (“advice to first-timers”), “Current Gigs” (“career guidance”) and “Current Rant” (“inviting viewers to let off steam”).

 

A recent trend in network television has been towards “reality” programs, not only because they are popular but also because they are cheap to produce. It costs vastly less to air real police chases donated by local police departments from the video cameras in their patrol cars than it does to hire star actors, writers and film crews to create fictional dramas.

 

Gore intends to “democratize” television and produce dirt-cheap programming by exploiting an endless supply of non-unionized young, aspiring broadcast artists and filmmakers in their teens and 20s who are willing to create programs for little or nothing. Most of these young people will be from liberal places like New York City, San Francisco and university campuses, likely to spawn stories that advance Left-leaning social, political and environmental agendas. These youngsters will be trying to gain high grades from leftist professors and/or fame and careers by impressing Left-leaning Hollywood film and television decision-makers and the liberals behind Gore’s network. It is easy to predict what kind of programs will result, and what kind of features will be selected for airing.

 

Nobody expects Gore-TV to broadcast video by young conservatives or libertarians documenting the coercive Leftist bias of college professors, for example, or the lunacy of environmental extremists. For that reason, Mr. Gore could disarm his critics and demonstrate a larger commitment to democracy and free speech by making his network a fair and balanced forum for views of young people from the Right as well as the Left. His choices will show whether political defeat has made former Vice President Gore’s mind and soul larger – or smaller. The betting is that, to paraphase Peter Sellers’ line from the 1979 movie Being There, Mr. Gore will “look smaller on TV.”

 

Los Angeles Times reporter Sallie Hofmeister wrote that “Media industry sources said Gore’s channel would blend unscripted ‘reality’ fare with commentary on public affairs. Several sources said the channel would have a strong point of view and could very well veer to the left, Gore’s assurances notwithstanding. ‘He’s giving cameras to college students who will report on issues in their communities, like homelessness,’ one executive said. ‘It’s clearly political.’”

 

Although NWI presently can be seen in almost 19 million homes, it is typically only one of more than 100 channels available to subscribers. Industry professionals have said that any cable channel requires access to at least 30 million homes before it can expect to go from red ink to black by turning a profit. What are the network’s prospects?

 

Former Vice President and presidential candidate Gore’s public recognition would be a valuable asset in many professions. But during his years as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Mr. Gore was an outspoken supporter of imposing harsh cable regulation through the Cable Act of 1992.

 

“I can’t imagine a guy on earth who’s going to have a more difficult time securing carriage from these cable operators than Al Gore,” the deputy editor of Broadcasting and Cable Magazine John Higgins told reporter Dan Fost of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He cost these guys multiple billions of dollars… That was a horrible period for these guys.”

 

If Gore and Hyatt rename and re-shape Newsworld International into Current TV in ways not to the liking of Rupert Murdoch’s DirecTV and the few cable systems now carrying it, they almost certainly have the option to declare that it is no longer the channel they agreed to carry –and pull the plug.

 

In April 2005 Gore and Hyatt’s “not in any way an ideological, much less partisan point of view” Current TV announced the winner of its first contest among submitted videos. It awarded its $15,000 First Prize “to three filmmakers who produced a funny segment poking fun at predictable and often misleading presidential campaign ads.”

 

Current is already showing signs of being not AC or DC but DNC, just as the skeptics foresaw.  The left and its paternalistic government are so…..not happening, so…..yesterday. And haven’t our children already been exposed to too much Gore on TV?


Mr. Ponte co-hosts a national radio talk show Monday through Friday 6-8 PM Eastern Time (3-5 PM Pacific Time) on the Genesis Communications Network. Internet Audio worldwide is at GCNlive .com. The show's live call-in number is 1-800-259-9231. A professional speaker, he is a former Roving Editor for Reader's Digest.


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