Al Gore's TV Station Debuts

Al Gore, as former US Vice President and co-founder of Current TV network, with television producers and hosts Laura Ling and Gotham Chopra (l-r), Beverly Hills, California. AP

Much of the talk around Al Gore's new Current TV network has been broadly philosophical, like the former vice president's statement that "we want to be the television home page for the Internet generation."

With its debut Monday, Current TV will be judged by the same mundane standards as other networks — on whether its programming can hold a viewer's interest.

Gore and his fellow investors envision Current as a sounding board for young people, a step beyond traditional notions of interactivity. They want viewers to contribute much of the network's content now that quality video equipment is widely available.

Based on material previewed on its Web site, Current at first glance seems like a hipper, more irreverent version of traditional television newsmagazines.

Most of its programming will be in "pods," roughly two to seven minutes long, covering topics like jobs, technology, spirituality and current events. An Internet-like on-screen progress bar will show the pod's length.

Its short films include a profile of a hang glider and a piece on working in a fish market. One contributor talked about what it was like to have his phone number on a hacked Internet list of Paris Hilton's cell phone contacts, saying that dealing with curiosity seekers was like "hosting your own radio call-in show."

Every half-hour, Current promises a news update using data from Google on news stories most frequently searched for on the Web.

"We have no illusions about the fact that our product has to be compelling," said David Neuman, Current's programming director. "We also believe it has to be unique. Who wants to watch the seventh clone of a different network?"

Despite suspicions created by his former profession, Gore promises the network won't be advancing a political point of view.

"I think the reality of the network will speak for itself," he told reporters in Los Angeles two weeks ago. "It's not intended to be partisan in any way and not intended to be ideological."
  • Jill Preschel

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