Friday, January 4, 2013

Crony Watch: Al Gore's deal with Al Jazz

Al Gore, populist leader of the climate alarmists, has sold a cable television network nobody watches to the oil-rich royal family of Qatar for $500 million. Well, Al Jazeera, actually, which is owned by the Qatari crown.

“The deep-pocketed Qatari royal family backing Al Jazeera handily outbid any other bidder’s rational bid,” the research firm PrivCo said in a note to clients.
Of course, "rational" means different things to different people, especially if you are an oil sheikh paying off an environmentalist. A quick swing through the linked story, which appears on the front page of today's dead tree Grey Lady, persuades one that even The New York Times had to struggle to conceal its disgust.

Of course, we buy a lot of foreign oil and have to get all those dollars back eventually, so one might congratulate Gore for repatriating a demi-billion of them by selling, er, air. Emphasis on might.

The back story is that Gore's network, Current TV, has no meaningful audience. It has cash flow, though, because when he launched the network a few years back Gore twisted the arms of the, er, regulated cable industry to pay hefty minimum subscriber fees notwithstanding its unproven audience. It not being nice to fool with mother Gore, the networks ponied up.

Recently, the audience having been both proven and small, the cable providers have been trying to get out of the Gore deal. That, of course, would lower the value of network in a control transaction, so Gore has been fighting back. How? By threatening to accuse the media networks of racism:

To preserve the deal — and the estimated $100 million he would personally receive — he went to some of those same distributors, who were looking for an excuse to drop the low-rated channel, and reminded them that their contracts with Current TV called it a news channel. Were the distributors going to say that an American version of Al Jazeera didn’t qualify, possibly invoking ugly stereotypes of the Middle Eastern news giant?
It is almost enough to make one sympathize with the cable television companies. Emphasis on almost.

Of course, Gore has a long history of sucking up to the oil kings in the Middle East, which he has never seen as inconsistent with his political cause. Increasingly, it looks as though his political cause was designed to generate "value" that would then be bought by the people with the greatest continuing stake in American dependence on imported oil.

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