- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Will Democrats finally get their GoreTV?

Former Vice President Al Gore could be just a signature away from buying his own cable-television network as a showcase for the Democratic message. Some reports suggest a deal could be made as early as today.

The object of Mr. Gore’s interest is Toronto-based Newsworld International (NWI), a 24-hour cable news channel founded by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in 1994 primarily as a vehicle to bring its own newscasts to an American audience.

Media analyst Aaron Barnhart believes “liberals — like Al Gore” gravitated to NWI during the war in Iraq because it “offered their own version of ‘fair and balanced’ viewpoints.”

It is part of a trend. Vexed by the ratings success of Fox News Channel and conservative talk radio in the last 18 months, liberal power players have investigated creating their own broadcast vehicles this year to counter the Bush administration and shore up the Democratic spirit as the 2004 election approaches.

Should Mr. Gore succeed in the reported $82 million purchase of NWI, it “could compete with Fox News Channel, which has unseated CNN as the most widely watched news channel in the U.S.,” Reuters noted yesterday.

But NWI, which is seen in some 20 million homes, has a complicated pedigree.

The network has changed hands three times since its founding and now sits under the massive Vivendi Universal media umbrella, which includes 17 other cable channels.

Vivendi itself is set to merge with NBC — possibly as early as today, according to Reuters. Vivendi noticeably left NWI out of the $40 billion deal, fueling speculation that Mr. Gore would purchase the channel with the help of trial lawyer Joel Hyatt and Steve Rattner of the Quandrangle Group, a New York-based investment firm.

Mr. Hyatt, who co-founded Hyatt Legal Services, unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Senate seat from Ohio in 1994, hoping to replace his father-in-law, Howard Metzenbaum.

The Gore-Hyatt-Rattner power trio has been tracked for months. In June, Time magazine asked, “Will we see Gore TV?”

The New York Observer claimed last month that the group met quietly with Vivendi Universal executives in early summer, preparing to “gut the channel for its bandwidth and reformat it for their own purposes.”

The trio is apparently getting anxious.

Mr. Gore and his group “also kicked tires at the cable channel TechTV, which is owned by Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen and is for sale,” the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday.

“He has met with Comcast Corp. and is looking to meet with AOL Time Warner Inc.,” the Journal also noted.

Calls to Mr. Gore’s Nashville office and NWI were not returned yesterday. A spokesman at Vivendi Universal declined to comment.

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