Current TV’s founders, Al Gore and Joel Hyat, have released a letter to viewers announcing that their relationship with Keith Olbermann has come to a end. This news will be regarded by some as a shock and others as an affirmation of Olbermann’s volatile personality. Either way it is bound to have an impact on the cable news marketplace as the dust settles.
Current has already secured a replacement for Olbermann in former New York governor Eliot Spitzer who will be hosting a new program called “Viewpoint” beginning today. The letter by Gore and Hyatt follows:
To the Viewers of Current:
We created Current to give voice to those Americans who refuse to rely on corporate-controlled media and are seeking an authentic progressive outlet. We are more committed to those goals today than ever before.
Current was also founded on the values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers. Unfortunately these values are no longer reflected in our relationship with Keith Olbermann and we have ended it.
We are moving ahead by honoring Current’s values. Current has a fundamental obligation to deliver news programming with a progressive perspective that our viewers can count on being available daily — especially now, during the presidential election campaign. Current exists because our audience desires the kind of perspective, insight and commentary that is not easily found elsewhere in this time of big media consolidation.
As we move toward this summer’s political conventions and the general election in the fall, Current is making significant new additions to our broadcasts. We have just debuted six hours of new programming each weekday with Bill Press (“Full Court Press, at 6 am ET/3 am PT) and Stephanie Miller (“Talking Liberally,” at 9 am ET/6 pm PT).
We’re very excited to announce that beginning tonight, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will host “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer,” at 8 pm ET/5 pm PT. Eliot is a veteran public servant and an astute observer of the issues of the day. He has important opinions and insights and he relishes the kind of constructive discourse that our viewers will appreciate this election year. We are confident that our viewers will be able to count on Governor Spitzer to deliver critical information on a daily basis.
All of these additions to Current’s lineup are aimed at achieving one simple goal — the goal that has always been central to Current’s mission: To tell stories no one else will tell, to speak truth to power, and to influence the conversation of democracy on behalf of those whose voice is too seldom heard. We, and everyone at Current, want to thank our viewers for their continued steadfast support.
Al Gore & Joel Hyatt
Olbermann’s response indicates that there will be some animosity and litigiousness between the parties before this is over. Here is what Olbermann had to say via extended Twittering:
My full statement:
I’d like to apologize to my viewers and my staff for the failure of Current TV.
Editorially, Countdown had never been better. But for more than a year I have been imploring Al Gore and Joel Hyatt to resolve our issues internally, while I’ve been not publicizing my complaints, and keeping the show alive for the sake of its loyal viewers and even more loyal staff. Nevertheless, Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt, instead of abiding by their promises and obligations and investing in a quality news program, finally thought it was more economical to try to get out of my contract.
It goes almost without saying that the claims against me implied in Current’s statement are untrue and will be proved so in the legal actions I will be filing against them presently. To understand Mr. Hyatt’s “values of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty,” I encourage you to read of a previous occasion Mr. Hyatt found himself in court for having unjustly fired an employee. That employee’s name was Clarence B. Cain. http://nyti.ms/HueZsa
In due course, the truth of the ethics of Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt will come out. For now, it is important only to again acknowledge that joining them was a sincere and well-intentioned gesture on my part, but in retrospect a foolish one. That lack of judgment is mine and mine alone, and I apologize again for it.
I can’t begin to speculate as to what the core issues are that lead to this divorce, but there have been prior reports of tensions and Olbermann was frequently absent from the show for the past few months.
What this means for Current is unknown. Olbermann was an enormous force who put the network on the map when he signed up. But now the benefit of that have been realized and it is entirely possible that the remaining personalities can hold their own with viewers. The Young Turks have had their own loyal following since before Cenk Uyger’s promotion to television. And Spitzer and Jennifer Granholm, both ex-governors, have the inherent credibility and respect afforded to executive officeholders. In their new morning lineup Current recently debuted simulcasts of radio talkers Bill Press and Stephanie Miller. So even as Olbermann is fading out, the network is firming up.
In my view, Current’s biggest problem is not talent-related. They need to work their cable affiliates to get better placement on more systems. There are plenty of dynamic liberals who can be called upon for hosting chores, but if the channel is not easily available to viewers it doesn’t do much good.
It will be interesting to see what happens to Olbermann. The publicity surrounding this departure, and his previous breakup with MSNBC, could make him appear to be a risky bet for other broadcasters. I hope that’s not the case. Somewhere there must be a good fit for him (perhaps the Internet), and his voice is well worth hearing. There’s one network where he almost certainly will not be turning up, however, I think it would be a marketing bonanza if the parties had the guts to actually do it. But don’t worry, they won’t.
So as they say in TV Land…stay tuned.