Al Gore Launches "Current TV Italia" in Rome

Simone De Bellis (May 25, 2008)
Italy is the first non-English speaking country to host the renowned experiment of citizen journalism on television created by the former Vice-President and Nobel Prize winner

Al Gore in Rome. Everything else (the how’s, where’s and why’s) is secondary. It is a rare chance to attend an event that embodies such a profound cultural contradiction. 

Al Gore arrives – on time – at the Ambra Jovinelli theatre, ready to present not only his product, Current TV, but also the idea that inspired it. The meeting at the theater was purposely separated from the press conference which took place that morning, since the focus of the second meeting was on the bloggers. His target audience is specifically people between the ages of 18 and 35 who surf the web and have the capacity not only to analyze news but also to write it.


They are not journalists. At least, not only journalists. Not always. Only 30% of the content on Current TV is produced by citizen journalists; the rest of the schedule is a more traditional selection of programs from Current TV’s national sites. But this time there is something new: Italy is the first non-anglophone country to become part of the network. This is another reason for organizers to be proud.

At first Al Gore refers to the usual motivations: “Italian creativity, the need to re-launch Italy’s role in international cultural….” The politician in him then takes over, flattering and complimenting the people in the audience and thanking Sky for allowing Current TV to be transmitted in Italy a couple of times a day via satellite. He concludes by reaffirming that his project is completely independent from outside interests that have nothing to do with culture.

After the final applause, it is time to allow the bloggers to ask some questions. Despite the triumphant announcements made by mass media outlets (namely television and newspapers) about the arrival of the i-phone in Italy, the bloggers present have just as many of these ubiquitous gadgets as one would find in an Apple store in the U.S.

And so between twittering, live blogging, and sheer exhibitionism, the session of pre-determined questions to ask to the Nobel Prize winner begins.

Some people, with a typical Italian attitude, still call him “President” while asking banal questions:  “How did you come up with the idea to create Current?” Others pose hilarious ones such as “If Current is directed toward young people why was it invented by 50 year-old adults?” In the midst of these, some more concrete questions surface.  

“Mr. Gore, you state that Current TV is free from external influences, but freedom comes at a price. Where do you get the necessary funds to sustain the initiative?” Gore thanks the person for the question, does not get nervous and begins to clarify – without referring explicitly to the people involved – that the funds come in part from his and the co-founder’s own pockets and the rest from investors who have signed an agreement through which Current is given the greatest independence possible.

It’s a good start, but the bloggers are just warming up and the next question is a mixture of pragmatism and cynicism. “Mr. Gore, we are the country of creativity but also the country that hosts the Vatican. What would you do if there were an attempt at censure from such an authority?”

The answer, preceded by a weighty silence, is worthy of an experienced businessman: “We answer only to our own conscience; I said it and I repeat it. In any case, I hope that they will try to censor something, this way our audience will grow.”

Sky’s live broadcast ends, along with the pre-selected questions. It is now time for independent, spontaneous questions and we report the last one, posed by Fabio Mosetti. 

“Mr. President, if I discovered a new Watergate in Italy, would Current offer legal assistance to me?”

With the allotted time running out the answer is “yes-and-no.” So, legal assistance is offered when there is something big at stake, but there are many rules concerning this issue that are to be respected and that are available for review on the website.

It seems that the upshot of the answer is yes, for street journalists. But to be protected as a journalist one must act as a journalist, so that the freedom of expression of a few doesn’t damage the interest of many, such as music protected by copyright or gossip which is not in the public’s best  interest.

Current TV is an interesting idea, but in our opinion it arrived in the bel paese because its target audience, people 18-35 years of age, is the most informed and reactive segment of society but has the fewest opportunities to have any real effect on broad issues – the average age of the representatives in Parliament is the best demonstration of this.  

(Translated by A. Buonocore e M. Melchionda. Edited by Giulia Prestia)