Al-Jazeera acquires Gore-founded TV group

NEW YORK (AFP) - Al-Jazeera has acquired Current TV, a struggling cable channel that will nonetheless give it access to millions of homes in the United States which it has long sought, The New York Times reported.

Terms of the deal for Current TV, which was founded by former US vice-president Al Gore, were not immediately disclosed, but Forbes reported that a possible value of US$400 million (S$488.2 million) could net Gore a tidy US$100 million.

It also should give Qatar-based Al-Jazeera vastly broader entry into US homes. Current TV is available in around 60 million American households, the report said.

"Al-Jazeera is planning to invest significantly in building 'Al-Jazeera America,' a network focused on international news for the American audience," Current TV's chief executive Joel Hyatt said in an e-mail to staff late on Wednesday, according to the report.

"Al (Gore) and I will both serve on the advisory board of Al-Jazeera America, and we look forward to helping build an important news network," he added.

The newspaper said Al-Jazeera was expected to create a new channel instead of using its existing English-language vehicle Al-Jazeera English.

It would produce around 60 per cent of its programming in the United States and draw the rest from Al-Jazeera English.

The plan could put the broadcaster financed by the government of Qatar into closer competition with CNN and other news channels in the United States, according to the newspaper, which noted that Al-Jazeera is offered only by a handful of US cable and satellite distributors.

Current Media, founded in 2005, operates Current TV which reaches households in Britain and the United States, and a youth-focused website, where users can submit their own content.

Founded by Mr Gore and Mr Hyatt, a businessman, Current TV has won two Emmy Awards and other honours. It reaches 71 million households worldwide.

But the report said a sale was considered because of low ratings, with an average of just 42,000 people watching the channel last year.