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Current TV: Al Gore's New Media Venture

(Soundbite of Current TV promo)

Ms. SHAUNTAY HINTON: Hey, folks. I'm Shauntay Hinton, and here at Current TV we need you. We need your input to produce and program a network that's not just ours, but yours if you want it. If you've ever thought, `TV really sucks. I could make it better or I could even make a better show,' you've come to the right place.

ED GORDON, host:

Current TV is supposed to snag the short attention spans of young people who don't usually watch the news. That's what former Vice President Al Gore hopes, anyway. The network is a new cable venture he helped launch this week. Among other programming, the channel accepts short videos from all over, focusing on the subjects its target audience cares about.

(Soundbite of Current TV promo)

Unidentified Man: You can become a citizen journalist, or you can become a Current producer. You can upload content you create. You can rate and review submissions online to determine what we show you next.

GORDON: Commentator Todd Boyd asks what purpose this exercise in interactivity is really serving.

Professor TODD BOYD:

There are few things in life worse than losing a presidential election. After months and months of round-the-clock media coverage, the runner-up suddenly disappears and stays invisible, often never to be heard from in a meaningful way again. Even the also-rans on "American Idol" can get work. But if you come up short in your bid for the White House, forget it. You're suddenly as relevant as an 8-track tape in an iPod world.

Al Gore seems eager to challenge all this with the launch of his new cable network, Current TV. Having watched Current TV in its inaugural week, the network appears to be a cross between an earlier version of MTV, CNN and the Internet. Gore describes Current as a television home page for the Internet generation, targeting young viewers with the latest interactive technology and creating programming by and about them. Given that blogs are blowing up and many young Americans prefer Jon Stewart's fake news over the real thing, it seems at first glance that Gore might be on to something. But it's hard to imagine `Al Gore' and `hip' in the same sentence.

Anytime I hear some middle-aged person talk about creating what young people want or need, I cringe. What young people want is for older people to leave them alone. When a new cultural form speaks to the youth, it's usually something they create themselves. Thank Shawn Fanning, who started Napster before he turned 20. Will Current TV stand out in a 500-channel media landscape, or will it find the same kind of success Apple and the iPod have enjoyed taking over Napster's turf? Not even Al Gore knows for sure, but starting a new network certainly beats being invisible.

GORDON: Todd Boyd is an author, media commentator and professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.