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National and world

January 3, 2013

Pan-Arab Al-Jazeera buys Current TV from Al Gore

(Continued)

LOS ANGELES —

Gore confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a statement that Al-Jazeera shares Current TV's mission "to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling."

Orville Schell, the former dean of journalism at UC Berkeley who was on Current's board, said the sale was justified.

"The reason to sell to Al-Jazeera is that they wished to buy it," Schell said in an email reply to The Associated Press. "Whatever one may think about them, they have become a serious broadcaster that covers the world in an impressively comprehensive way. Time Warner probably dropped the contract because they fear American prejudice."

Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists. More than half of the content will be U.S. news and the network will have its headquarters in New York, spokesman Stan Collender said.

Marwan Kraidy, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert on the Arab media, said the deal is part of an expansion binge by Al-Jazeera.

"The U.S. market has been the nut they wanted to crack, and this is why they pursued Current TV so assiduously," he said. "A small country like Qatar has very few tools to exercise global influence, and they've figured out that media is one of these tools."

Working against it, Kraidy said, is the perception among some Americans that Al-Jazeera is a "toxic brand." It's still remembered as the channel that gave voice to Osama Bin Laden, he said.

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