Gore hits corporate media, defends Current TV sale
By Erik Schelzig, AP
January 31, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
NASHVILLE, Tennessee--Al Gore, who takes aim in his new book at the corporate media for "suffocating the free flow of ideas," on Tuesday defended the sale of his television channel to Al-Jazeera.
The Qatar government-owned news network earlier this month struck a deal to buy Current TV, the cable news network co-founded by the former vice president. The price tag was US$500 million.
Gore told The Associated Press that he had no reservations about selling the channel to Al-Jazeera, which has won U.S. journalism prizes but has been criticized by some for an anti-American bias. The new owner plans to gradually transform Current into a network called Al-Jazeera America.
"They're commercial-free, they're hard-hitting," he said in a phone interview. "They're very respected and capable, and their climate coverage has been outstanding, in-depth, extensive, far more so than any network currently on the air in the U.S."
The 64-year-old Gore said he considers Current TV, which was largely outflanked by MSNBC in its effort to be a liberal alternative to Fox News Channel, to have been a success.
"We won every major award in television journalism, and we were profitable each year," said Gore, who has a home in Nashville. "But it's difficult for an independent network to compete in an age of conglomerate."
In a new 592-page book titled, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," Gore makes only a fleeting reference to Al-Jazeera, calling it "the feisty and relatively independent satellite television channel" that played a key role in bringing about the Arab Spring.
Gore in the book likens the influence of money in the political process to a "slow-motion corporate coup d'etat that threatens to destroy the integrity and functioning of American democracy."
"Corporations are not people," Gore said in the interview. "Might doesn't make right. Money is not speech. And those who advocate the dominance of American politics by large corporations, special interests and anonymous donors are working against the original design by our founders."
"Our democracy has been hacked," he said.
Corporations have enlisted politicians and lobbyists to further their goals and have also "recruited a fifth column in the Fourth Estate," he said in the book, referring to the corporate influence in the media.
"The one-way, advertising-dominated conglomerate-controlled television medium has been suffocating the free flow of ideas necessary for genuine self-determination," he writes.
The Internet provides a path for breaking the corporate stranglehold on the media, Gore said in the interview, as it "is less vulnerable to the dominance of special interests, because individual voices play a larger and more influential role."
Gore, who won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to raise awareness about climate change, also calls for a carbon tax, though he acknowledged that passage does not appear to be imminent.
"Well, I wouldn't go to Vegas and bet on it right now," he said. "But neither would I say that it's impossible ... The day has passed when we can use the earth's atmosphere as an open sewer."
"Yes it's tough, because we've been relying on these fossil fuels for 150 years. But the cost of solar and wind is coming down rapidly and energy efficiency saves money while it reduces pollution," he said. "And we need to move in that direction quickly."
Gore, who represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives before he was tapped by President Bill Clinton as his vice presidential running mate, blames procedural rules in the Senate for blocking popular measures.