SAN FRANCISCO -- Was Wednesday's purchase of Current TV, the cable news channel co-founded by former US Vice President , by Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, designed to erode the American public's support for Israel?
On the surface, the $400 million sale looks like an incredible business move for Al-Jazeera, the Qatar government-owned cable broadcaster that has struggled to break into the US market, as well as for Gore, who likely will reap a fortune from the deal.
With the purchase, Al-Jazeera gains access to 40 million US viewers, nine times more than could previously watch the channel on cable systems in major cities including New York and Washington, DC, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
"This is a pure business decision based on recognized demand," al-Jazeera spokesman Stan Collender told the newspaper.
"When people watch Al-Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal," he said.
But whether US television watchers will tune in to the station is an open question, since its coverage has been characterized at times as anti-American and, even more frequently, as anti-Israeli.
Financial and military support for Israel, the Middle East's only democratic government, is a fundamental tenet of US foreign policy and enjoys wide support in the United States.
Al-Jazeera says it will gradually transform Current TV from what it is now, a left-leaning talk station, to Al-Jazeera America, a broadcaster offering a large proportion of US news in addition to its Arab-oriented programming, the newspaper said.
To stay on top of U.S. news, Al-Jazeera plans to hire more journalists, add five to 10 more bureaus, and to move Current TV's headquarters from San Francisco to New York.
But the transition is certain to be rocky, as demonstrated by the almost immediate announcement by Time Warner Cable Inc., the second-largest US cable company, to drop Current TV as a result of the purchase.
"Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service" the company said after the sale was announced. "We are removing the service as quickly as possible."
Gore, who served two terms as vice president under Presidentbut lost the 2000 presidential race to despite winning the popular vote, said Al-Jazeera and Current TV shared the same mission of airing the kind of stories "that no one else is telling."
Collender said there were no US rules prohibiting foreign ownership of a cable channel.
Comcast Corp. is an investor in Current TV and owns less than 10 percent of the channel, the newspaper said.