Hours after Al Jazeera finalized a deal to acquire Current TV, Time-Warner Cable pulled the plug on the progressive channel.
Al Jazeera is boldly venturing into the US media market with its $500 million purchase of Current TV, a floundering left-leaning media company owned by former US Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt. The controversial Qatar-based network also announced it would create a new US-based news channel called Al Jazeera America. The new channel will reportedly be available in 40 million US households.
But it's highly likely that Al Jazeera America won't be carried by Time-Warner Cable. Time-Warner customers who attempted to tune into Current TV following the announcement of the Al Jazeera deal were met with an on-screen message informing them that "this channel is no longer available on Time-Warner Cable."
Time-Warner "did not consent to the sale to Al Jazeera," Hyatt told staff in a Wednesday memo. "Consequently, Current will no longer be carried on TWC. This is unfortunate, but I am confident that Al Jazeera America will earn significant additional carriage in the months and years ahead."
An al-Jazeera studio
Media critics accused Time-Warner Cable of making a gutless, politically motivated decision.
"Time-Warner Cable shows abject political and journalistic cowardice by dropping Current because of the Al Jazeera deal," tweeted Dan Gilmor, founding director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University.
Although much maligned in the United States for airing speeches by Osama bin Laden and for showing regular footage of innocent civilians killed by US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English have won many international awards for objectivity and independence, although the broadcaster is owned by the government of Qatar.
Al Jazeera's unflinching coverage of crimes committed by Arab regimes, Iran, the United States, Israel and other nations has earned the network many enemies. US forces even bombed Al Jazeera's Kabul office and, a few years later, its Baghdad bureau, claiming the attack was an accident. President George W. Bush also reportedly considered bombing Al Jazeera headquarters in Doha, Qatar, but UK Prime Minister Tony Blair talked him out of it.