- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

It does not seem like the work of a former vice president noted for his stuffiness.

Current — Al Gore’s cable-TV network for the young and restless — debuted yesterday, broadcasting stories on sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and “hotties,” among other things, in frantic bursts to an initial audience in 20 million homes.

It is not “appointment television,” according to programming director David Neuman, instead offering segment “pods” from 15 seconds to five minutes in length on 60 topics.

Subjects yesterday included daredevils parachuting off bridges in Oregon, teenagers’ sex lives “across the globe” and a party rife with the drug Ecstacy, complete with an expose about the young Iranians who hosted it.

“Current’s allowing me to tell my story, and allowing other people my age to tell their stories,” said Yasmin Vossoughian, the young New Yorker who shot the video.

Some four years in the making, the San Francisco-based network has been portrayed as a reincarnation for Mr. Gore, 57, who has traded his campaign-era earth-tone wardrobe for one heavy on hipster black and charcoal gray.

He has insisted from the beginning that this was no partisan venture, claiming in April, “We have no interest in being the TV version of Air America” and previously denying the network would be “DNC TV,” a reference to the Democratic National Committee.

Still, the network cannot shake its heavily Democratic pedigree or accusations from critics who categorized the network as a shameless attempt to woo youthful voters before the 2008 presidential election.

Mr. Gore’s business partner is trial lawyer Joel Hyatt, a former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee who ran for Senate from Ohio in 1994, aspiring to replace his father-in-law, Howard Metzenbaum.

Manhattan media financier Steve Rattner, an adviser to the John Kerry presidential campaign, and Democratic Party contributor billionaire Ronald W. Burkle helped finesse the basic transaction that made the network possible.

Mr. Gore purchased Toronto-based Newsworld International, a 24-hour Canadian news channel, for $70 million from Vivendi Universal on May 4, 2004, and turned it into Current.

Just three weeks later, however, Mr. Gore said in a speech before the political action committee MoveOn.org, “George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.”

Politics, however, seems soft-pedaled so far, listed behind technology, fashion, music, video games, environment, relationships, parenting and finances in programming information. A quarter of the programming itself will be original fare from viewers.

Still, a newscast airs every half hour, with occasional forays into subsections called “Lies” (“What the media is telling you that isn’t true”) and “Issue” (“Drugs, relationships and political hot topics”).

The rest is a motley mix of trends, plus such topics as “Caring,” “Courage” and “Soul.” It is available through Comcast, Time Warner and DirecTV. Youthful enthusiasm, meanwhile, is not lacking.

“Oh, my God, we are launching a TV channel,” noted Web site manager Robin Sloane in the network’s initial Web log yesterday.

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