Culture > Television

Floating along


Issue: "Faith-based about-face," Aug. 27, 2005

Al Gore's television network Current-TV, which he bought with other investors, is not, as many assumed, a liberal version of Fox News. Nor does it have "shows" in any sense of the word.

So what is it? Think MTV without the music. Or commercials without a product to sell.

Programming on Current-TV consists of "pods," short documentary features, many of them sent in by viewers. In between are "lifestyle" features-updates on new record releases and hip art show openings-as well as graphical quizzes (what is better for you, cola or lemonade?) and "Google Current," showing the top five internet searches of the moment.

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The killer concept: Nothing lasts more than seven minutes.

Thus, Current-TV gears itself to the alleged short attention spans of today's young channel surfers. The big gimmick is that viewers are encouraged to make their own videos, then submit them via the internet. That makes for television democracy, in which everyone is encouraged to become a "citizen-journalist."

Many of the viewer-supplied "pods" are painfully trivial and self-indulgent. The story of a humanitarian trip to Sierra Leone ends up focusing on rap music. Yet some are painfully interesting. An 18-year-old Eastern European who works for a pornographic "sex-cam" site made a plaintive video in which she tells of her exploitation (she makes $1 to $5 a day for 12 to 18 hours of "work") and her palpable misery ("Upside? I never have to leave my bed. Downside? Everything else").

Is this the invention of Al Gore the liberal? Only in the sense that its mentality favors the new, the fashionable, and the bohemian. Young conservatives and Christians should send in their videos, and we'll see if they get on Current-TV. That will be the test of how nonpartisan and nonideological it really is.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith


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