For Good TV News, Separate The Commerce From The Journalism
Pride in your work. Aiding in news diversity. Profitability.Those terms sound like an honorable description of Current TV.
So why not continue? That of course, was the easy question to answer for majority owner Al Gore, who recently agreed to sell the network to Al Jazeera for $500 million. Independence is a tough row to go in the rough-and-tumble cable TV world.
The tougher question: Why did he sell Current TV to a company whose backers get their money from traditional fossil fuel producers -- something Gore has long railed about in his crusade for heightening awareness on climate change.
Turns out there were other considerations. "As an independent in an age of conglomerates, without deep pockets, we faced a point, even though we were profitable each year, where we had to make a move,” Gore said. “And this organization, I think, is a very good addition to the U.S. television dial."
In some ways, I get his concern. But in other ways, the sale bespeaks issues we always seem to focus on when it comes to TV news networks and news organizations in general: separation of journalism and commerce. If we get that, we're good.
This continues to be an issue for TV news operations. CBS has been going through this: Can it separate CNET’s journalism from its business affairs? Nope, it can't. Not completely.
Because it has ongoing litigation with Dish Network, CBS wouldn’t allow CNET to give Dish Network a top honor, stemming from one of its reviews. For similar legal reasons, CBS also won't allow CNET to review any technology from over-the-top TV service Aereo.
But that's not good enough.
Think about NBC, ABC, Fox News and CNN, and then focus on advertisers and other business partners. You'll get the good and the iffy. Now show me where Al-Jazeera (or Current TV) has been soft on covering hard alternatives to fossil fuels or climate change.
A complicated world still exists in the TV news world. We know this going in. But let’s focus on the obvious -- or at least on really fair and balanced news reports.<