NEW YORK (Reuters) - Unabashed liberal news anchor Keith Olbermann will return to television on Current TV, taking a leadership position and holding an equity stake at the public affairs channel run by former Vice President Al Gore.
Olbermann, who abruptly parted ways with cable news network MSNBC in January, will drive Current TV’s editorial operation as Chief News Officer and host a one-hour prime-time show airing weeknights from New York, beginning later in 2011.
The outspoken political affairs anchor, whose departure from MSNBC came just over two months after that network briefly suspended him for giving money to three Democratic politicians during the 2010 congressional election campaign, trumpeted his move as swapping to a “truth-seeking entity” on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
He called it “truly the most exciting venture in my career,” and said Current TV, which is independent from major media organizations and privately-owned by Gore and other backers, was in a viewership and financial position as favorable as any cable network he had joined in the past.
Current TV, which is available via cable and satellite operators such as Time Warner, Comcast, and Dish Network, is available to less homes than MSNBC — 60 million households in the United States — and mostly only on digital TV platforms.
Executives at the low-rated, five-year-old channel said the addition of Olbermann was a key part of boosting the channel’s profile. They declined to disclose revenues, except to say the company had experienced growth and was not considering an initial public offering of stock to fund its operations.
Gore, Current Media’s chairman and vice president, called Olbermann’s new position “enormously significant” and said the centerpiece of Olbermann’s new show would be his “signature and intelligent commentary.”
Gore said Olbermann, a former sports anchor who had two years left on his contract at MSNBC where his nightly show “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” drew over 1 million viewers a night, would lure advertisers to the network.
The former vice president to Bill Clinton and unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidate in 2000 against George W. Bush, said Olbermann would have free reign to make any political donations he liked with full disclosure.
“We believe at Current that every citizen has the freedom of speech and that freedom of speech includes the ability to donate to candidates of your choice,” said Gore, adding that “full disclosure” was “also important to inform the viewers.”
Olbermann promised a similar focus as his old MSNBC news program, which helped define that network as a liberal voice in cable TV and a counterpoint to Fox News’ more conservative bent.
He promised “an improved and we hope amplified and stronger version of the show I just did,” and said the program’s name and exact time slot were yet to be decided.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte