Former US VP Al Gore claims that his news/documentary program service Current TV has been dropped from News Corp. MVPD Sky Italia because of its decision to hire Fox News nemesis Keith Olbermann. News Corp. says it was strictly a business decision based on Current’s demand for higher carriage fees.
Gore told British newspaper Guardian, “News Corporation is an international conglomerate with an ideological agenda. It seeks political power in every nation they operate. They wield that power to shut down voices that disagree with the agenda of Rupert Murdoch.” He said the decision to drop Current TV was a “complete shock.”
There are concerns that problems between Current TV and News Corp. could carry over to the UK, where News Corp.’s proposal to acquire MVPD BSkyB is pending review.
News Corp. said there is no agenda involved whatsoever, beyond its claim that ratings of the channel are falling at the same time that Current TV is demanding more money. A spokesperson told Huffington Post, “The non-renewal of Current TV’s carriage agreement with Sky Italia is purely commercial. Current TV asked Sky Italia for double the carriage fee when primetime viewing had fallen by 40 percent in the past year. Sky Italia’s offer was in line with the market and reflected the performance of the channel. It had nothing to do with politics.”
However, a Current TV executive disputes that, saying the network asked only for a very modest increase. The ratings loss is also a matter of dispute – Current TV says it enjoyed a 550% increase in viewership in Italy from 2009 to 2010, and has only given a tiny amount of that gain in recent ratings reports.
Gore claims a cordial personal relationship with News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch, but at the same time stands behind his charge that the company pursues a political agenda.
Current EVP Joel Hyatt said that most of Current Italia programming is produced in Italy and adds that there are no plans to carry Olbermann there, but according to Huffington, still believes the Olbermann hiring is the source of the problem. “This is about politics. This about the fact that we hired Keith Olbermann, plain and simple.”