US

Current TV defends Al-Jazeera, the station’s new boss

Current TV defended Al-Jazeera and its American expansion on its Thursday edition of Viewpoint, the station’s political talk show, hosted by comedian John Fugelsang.

Fugelsang slammed Fox News Channel for criticizing Al-Jazeera America, calling Fox a “mecca for people who hate Mecca,” and defended Al-Jazeera’s legitimacy as a news source.

“They’re not here to push an anti-American bias, they’re here because they want to do news,” he said Feb. 21.

He also praised Al-Jazeera America for its contribution to the American job market. “[They're] doing something the GOP seemingly can’t do — they’re creating lots and lots of jobs. For America.”

However, Current TV may stand alone in its defense of Al-Jazeera America, as the Federal Communication Commission has failed to address legislators’ concerns over the Current TV-Al-Jazeera sale, which took place in January.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim Murphy prodded the FCC on Jan. 11 to explain its review procedures for the sale.

Murphy gave FCC chairman Julius Genachowski 10 business days to produce an explanation of the commission’s review procedures regarding the sale, as well as its rules governing foreign ownership of American news networks. It has been nearly a month-and-a-half since the letter was sent, and Murphy has received no response.

There are “legitimate concerns” about the sale of a U.S. news channel to one owned by a foreign government, Murphy told The Daily Caller.

Current TV was sold to Al-Jazeera, which is funded by the government of Qatar, in January for $500 million. The sale would expand Al-Jazeera’s broadcasts to 40 million American homes.

Al-Jazeera plans to launch its American branch this summer, according to Ashok Sinha, vice president of corporate communications at Current TV/Al-Jazeera America.

Al-Jazeera America will be separate from Al-Jazeera English, but “an estimated 40 percent of the new network’s program will come from the English-language channel,” Murphy said in his letter to Genachowski.

In the letter, Murphy reminded Genachowski of the FCC’s legal review of the Comcast-NBC Universal merge. The review resulted in a settlement between the U.S. Treasury and Comcast in which Comcast paid up $800,000.

“With the $500 million sale of Current TV to government-owned Al-Jazeera, the FCC has been noticeably silent. I want to understand why the agency is treating this transaction differently,” Murphy told The Daily Caller.

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