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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Al Jazeera bought Current TV to launch Al Jazeera America.

Al Jazeera buys out Current TV


If you traveled to the Middle East, or simply follow international news, then you've heard about Al Jazeera. Well, the Qatar-based broadcasting powerhouse just bought struggling Current TV.

The Al Gore-owned station had been having trouble with maintaining and growing viewership, especially in the last year. Because of the low ratings, many cable outlets considered dropping the channel as soon as carriage agreements expired.

Al Jazeera has come a long way in the past decade, growing an international audience and following in a number of countries. News teams at the broadcaster's various stations won reporting accolades for its reporting of the Arab protests of 2011.

Most Americans remember Al Jazeera for the rebuke it got from the George W. Bush administration for the Arab-language outlet's coverage of the Iraq war. Many U.S.-based news networks monitor the coverage from the English-language channel of Al Jazeera and its coverage of international issues. Currently, we hear of the broadcaster's coverage of the war going on within Syria.

It you have Time Warner Cable, you won't be seeing what will be called Al Jazeera America any time soon. The 12 million households that TWC serves were not going to see Current TV much longer either, because of the low ratings.

Media observers are reporting that the TWC move against carrying Al Jazeera America is possibly politically motivated. However, those same commentators would call the dropping of Current TV politically motivated, as well. Time Warner Cable has been in talks with carrying Al Jazeera English at one point, and it will be interesting to see if the eventual launch of Al Jazeera America would change the negotiations.

Al Jazeera America is to be a stand-alone channel, but I'd guess a good deal of programming from Al Jazeera English would make its way over. The network believes that it does have the potential for an audience in the U.S., with Americans accounting for around 40 percent of its digital streaming coverage of Al Jazeera English. The question remains if Al Jazeera will be able to provide the right tone and programming to show an American audience what it stands for, and if there will be enough viewership and advertising revenue to make the move worth-while.

Ever since Keith Olbermann, the former MSNBC and ESPN anchor, left Current TV, ratings have been on a continual landslide. Al Jazeera America wouldn't have to do much to be better.

SAY IT: Actor Samuel L. Jackson is known for his ability to use harsh language to his advantage through different roles on film. When in a junket for Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" one entertainment reporter tried to ask Jackson about the controversy of the "N-word" in the movie. Jackson commented, "No? Nobody? None? The word would be?"

Jake Hamilton refused to say the word and Jackson said he wouldn't address the question unless Hamilton said it. Jackson offered the opportunity to move on, and Hamilton thankfully did.

You can watch the exchange here.

BUSINESS TALK: If you followed some of the talking head chatter on the fiscal cliff on Thursday, you may have caught a little bit of Milwaukee perspective on the Fox Business Network.

First Edge Solutions president and CEO Robert Kraft participated in a panel discussion on satellite feed from WITI-TV Fox 6 for a segment with Famous Dave's CEO John Gilbert on "After The Bell." You can see the video clip here.

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