California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Current TV are parting ways in the wake of the television production company’s purchase by Al Jazeera, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.
Current TV confirmed in a statement today that it had been purchased by the controversial media company owned by the government of Qatar. So far Current TV, which is based in San Francisco, has not said what will become of its employees.
In its own statement on the acquisition, Al Jazeera said it will double its U.S. staff to 300, and that the headquarters of its new U.S. division will be New York. It does not mention a San Francisco office.
Newsom declined our request for an interview today, but the Bee reported this statement:
“The Gavin Newsom Show was a remarkable opportunity and a truly educational experience for which he is grateful,” Peter Ragone, a spokesman for Newsom, said in a prepared statement. “But the Lt. Governor’s original agreement with Current had recently concluded and he was already moving in a new direction.”
The hourlong show premiered in May on the network co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore. Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco, interviewed guests including cyclist Lance Armstrong, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and author Paul Ingrassia.
It was unclear when the final show will air. A new episode is scheduled to be televised Friday night, according to Current TV’s online listings.
Newsom is not the only host who will no longer appear on Current TV. Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm said she was dropping her show, according to the Detroit Free Press.
And Time Warner has also reportedly announced it will no longer carry Current TV’s broadcasts, undermining Al Jazeera’s apparent goal of expanding its base of U.S. viewers.
Al Jazeera has played a controversial role in the constellation of international media companies. The company has won praise from some leading journalists and politicians in the United States, but was criticized by others for offering a platform for Al Qaeda’s statements.
In a statement published by Chronicle blogger Joe Garofoli, Current TV’s co-owner Joel Hyatt praised Al Jazeera’s journalistic credentials and hinted that the company would keep at least some Current TV staff on board:
Obviously there will be a lot of transition work in the coming weeks. Al Jazeera does not have a management team in place in the U.S to run this new venture. They are extremely impressed with our people and our accomplishments. I will be holding staff meetings in the next few days and will introduce the senior folks from Al Jazeera who have led the planning for this entry into the United States. (I will separately communicate as to the day and time for those staff meetings.) We will communicate more of the details of this acquisition during those meetings.
So why did Hyatt and Al Gore — the other Current TV owner — sell? After seven years of following, Current TV never got a large following, the New York Times’ Brian Stelter reports, and Al Jazeera is paying $500 million for the purchase — $100 million of which goes into the former vice president’s pocket, Stelter says.