Al Gore has a new day job. The former vice president announced at the National Cable and Television Association convention May 4 that his company, IndTV Holdings, has acquired the Canadian-based Newsworld International network (NWI) from Vivendi Universal Entertainment for an undisclosed sum. The channel will be re-launched as a progressive news and information channel targeting young adults.
There has been much speculation during the last year that Gore was seeking to launch a liberal news network to counter the conservative viewpoints often associated with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. But contrary to the expectations of many, Gore has firmly maintained that his new network will be non-partisan. Instead, he has emphasized the importance of an independent information service that will reach the young American electorate, those between the ages of 18 and 35. It is not yet clear when Gore's network will go on air, as he has said that the network would begin to shift its programming to youth-oriented shows over the next year-and-a-half, but has not given a specific timetable.
Gore, a former journalist, has described himself as "a rookie" in the media business. He plans to devote most of his time to the new network.
Gore is to serve as chairman of the board and his long-time friend and business partner, Joel Hyatt, will be chief executive. Hyatt is the founder of Hyatt Legal Services and a former candidate for the Democratic Senate nomination in Ohio who is currently on the faculty of Stanford University. The team has yet to reveal the name of the new network.
Gore and Hyatt have described the content of the revamped NWI as "bold and irreverent." The channel will evidently include traditional news formats with an added element of comedy. Gore and Hyatt said they have been working with young, creative people who need a medium through which to express their ideas.
Cable leaders have responded with skepticism to IndTV's acquisition of NWI, noting the difficulty of capturing a large audience with cable and satellite systems already saturated with channels. They also noted that Gore's history may prevent him from rising above the political fray in his aim of producing a politically independent program.
For the moment, the new cable channel does not appear to be a point of re-entry into politics for the former vice president who said that, although he does not foresee running for political office again, he would not rule it out completely.
Daniel Drezner, assistant professor of political science at the University, said that he views Gore's initiative as "sincere," and emphasized that for the time being, the former vice president's independent aims should be taken at face value.
Drezner described the content of the new network as "amorphous," noting that Gore and Hyatt have yet to come out and say exactly what they plan to do. Drezner thinks the program will have little success in appealing to Americans with conservative political leanings. "I imagine conservatives may watch Gore's program with the same kind of amusement that liberals derive from listening to Rush Limbaugh," he said.
Drezner does not consider the launching of the new channel to be related to presidential ambitions Gore might still have. "Al Gore's political career is over," Drezner said. "After being the sitting vice-president during an extremely successful economy, and then losing the presidential election to George Bush The fact that he endorsed Howard Dean doesn't help to restore his credibility."