By Andy Sambidge
Ex US vice-president says Qatar firm is 'highly respected', will produce 'high quality stuff'
Former US vice-president Al Gore has defended his decision to sell cable television network Current TV to Qatar's Al Jazeera during an interview with chat-show host David Letterman.
Gore said the time was right to sell the network, adding that Al Jazeera was a "highly respected" company which would produce "high quality stuff" on Al Jazeera America.
"They're very widely respected, and people see for themselves. And, by the way, their climate coverage is higher quality and more extensive than any network on TV now in the US," Gore said when questioned about the Qatari network's pedigree.
Gore also dismissed claims that he was selling out to a country which depended so heavily on oil and gas, something contrary to the politician's stance on climate change.
"I think I understand what you're getting at, Dave, but I disagree with it," Gore told the US TV host.
"First of all, they have ambitious plans to develop renewables in the region. There's a visionary plan to take solar energy and wind energy from the Middle East and North Africa to Western Europe."
He added: "Again, the network that they founded has become a very widely respected news-gathering organisation, including on climate issues."
Last month, Al Jazeera said it had acquired Current TV, the cable television network founded by Gore.
The move will boost the Doha-based network’s reach in the US to around 40m homes, giving the pan-Arab station a significant boost in the US, something it has been struggling to achieve for many years.
Al Jazeera will close Current TV and replace it with a new network, Al Jazeera America, while Gore and co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt will remain on the advisory board.
The new channel will be headquartered in New York and in addition to existing bureaus in that city, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, Al Jazeera will open more bureaus, doubling the network’s US-based staff to more than 300 employees.
The Doha network, owned by the government of Qatar, did not disclose the purchase price but Bloomberg reported the deal to be valued at around $500m, quoting two people familiar with the deal.
Current TV, founded in 2005 by Gore and Hyatt, is distributed in around 60m of the 100m homes in the US with cable or satellite service.