Al-Jazeera announced Wednesday that it was acquiring Current TV, the network launched by former Vice President Al Gore.
“By acquiring Current TV, Al Jazeera will significantly expand our existing distribution footprint in the U.S., as well as increase our newsgathering and reporting efforts in America,” Al-Jazeera Director General Ahmed bin Jassim Al Thani said in a statement.
The new channel, Al-Jazeera America, will be based in New York. The Qatar-based Arabic-language network already operates an English-language arm, Al-Jazeera English. The New York Times reported that roughly 60 percent of the new network’s programming will be produced in the U.S.; the rest will come from Al-Jazeera English.
The acquisition gives Al-Jazeera, which is financed by the Qatari government, access to an American TV audience. According to The Times, Current is available in about 60 million of the 100 million homes with cable or satellite service.
Here’s The Times‘ Media Decoder blog’s take on the acquisition:
“To date, the country’s cable and satellite distributors have been reluctant to carry Al Jazeera English. It is available in just a handful of cities, including New York and Washington. To change that, Al Jazeera has lobbied distributors, called for a letter-writing campaign by supporters and promoted its widely praised coverage of the Arab Spring.
“Acquiring Current TV, and thus its distribution deals across the country, solves this dilemma for Al Jazeera, at least partially.”
In its statement, Al-Jazeera said that it will open new bureaus across the U.S. It already operates bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago. The expansion, the network said, will double Al-Jazeera’s U.S.-based staff to more than 300 employees.