After several months of rumors that Current TV was looking to sell out, Qatar-based, Arabic satellite news network Al Jazeera is reportedly finalizing a deal that would take over the cable news network headquartered in San Francisco and founded by Al Gore and partners in 2005. According to today's New York Times, if the deal goes through the massive Arabic network will expand its reach into America with Current's 60 million cable subscribers.
Under the deal, Current TV will become a new channel based in New York, possibly called Al Jazeera America, and will consist of about 60 percent original programming produced in the United States. The remaining 40 percent of programming would be filled with content from AL Jazeera English in Qatar.
As for Current TV's staff, which includes former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and current California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom: people inside the deal say some staffers and on-air talent may be carried over, but the channel's lineup of shows will most likely be dissolved sometime this spring. Spitzer himself remarked a few months back that someone ought to buy the channel, and it would appear that Newsom's always entertaining talk show probably won't see a second season in 2013. Neilsen ratings showed the channel had about 42,000 nightly viewers on a typical evening in 2012.
As the NYT notes, Al Jazeera's celebrated coverage of last year's Arab Spring was hard to come by stateside, with many cable and satellite companies refusing to carry Al Jazeera English outside of big metro areas like New York and Washington, DC. The channel is heavily financed by the government of Qatar, although it maintains that coverage remains editorially independent. On the other hand, internal memos from the U.S. State Department leaked by Wikileaks a few years back claim the channel's coverage is manipulated to suit the government's political agenda. By comparison, Comcast owns a 10 percent stake in Current TV and is generally regarded as evil by most cable subscribers.
Update: As of around 4 p.m. PST this afternoon, the New York Times confirms the sale has been completed. Current TV programing will continue for the next three months, after which the channel will become a simulcast of Al Jazeera English until the newly rebranded Al Jazeera America (or whatever it is eventually called) will take over with more US-produced content.