Marking its first high-profile American hire, Al Jazeera has announced that it has acquired CNN’s former chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, for its new Al Jazeera America cable network.
Al Jazeera America is preparing for a summer launch after having bought Al Gore’s Current TV network last December.
CNN President Jeff Zucker made the announcement in an April 3 staff meeting, reporting that Velshi’s last day is April 5. Zucker assured staffers that the parting was amicable and that CNN was sorry to see him go.
“It’s been an amazing almost 12 years at CNN. Love it more today than I ever have, and CNN is going to be great under Jeff,” Velshi said. “I basically grew up here, so it’s sad to leave, but I’ve got a great opportunity to stretch some new muscles and grow something, and it appeals to my entrepreneurial side.”
That new opportunity turns out to be Al Jazeera. Upon Al Jazeera America’s launch this summer, Velshi will host an as yet unnamed, “magazine-style” half-hour weekend business program that is later planned to switch to weekdays.
“The program will cover a variety of topics including employment, personal finance, healthcare and education and will feature a mix of field reports, studio guests and interactive discussions designed to highlight how economic developments in the U.S. and around the globe affect the daily lives of Americans,” the network said in a press release. “The program will draw upon the extensive global resources of the Al Jazeera Media Network and will employ specialists and other correspondents who will lend their expertise.”
The executive director of Al Jazeera’s international operations, Ehab Al Shihabi, insisted that Velshi will be allowed a “strong” voice on the new network. “As is the case with Ali, all Al Jazeera America reporters will be fiercely objective, substantively strong, and absolutely committed to the truth,” Al Shihabi said.
When Al Gore, famed as the nation’s top “green” advocate, made the surprise announcement that he was selling his cable network to the oil-rich nation of Qatar, calls for investigations into the sale were immediately raised.
Accuracy In Media, for instance, claimed that the deal means open season on America’s media and posited that it was a matter of national security.
If Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) lets the Al Jazeera-Al Gore deal go through without scrutiny, then every broadcast entity or communications facility in America is ripe for the plucking by any of our nation’s enemies and adversaries.
In another case, a television consultant filed a lawsuit saying that the whole idea of the sale was his but Gore and the executives at Current TV cut him out of the deal.