In Tuesday's Kansas City Star, reporter Aaron Barnhart revealed that Current TV, the cable channel launched in 2005 by Al Gore, would be the least missed, only managing to be viewed by 18,000 households in the fourth quarter of 2010. Also on the list of "Cable's Least Wanted" were the DIY network, ESPN Classic, Fox Soccer Channel, Logo, and Sleuth.
Despite such abysmal ratings for Current, Barnhart argued that the addition of former MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann to the channel would turn things around: "The good news for Current is that it won’t be counting its audience in the high five figures, at least not when Olbermann is on the air." He later remarked: "Unlike Current, the rest of Cable’s Least Wanted don’t have a ratings savior waiting in the wings."
Barnhart was speculating on which channels could be eliminated from the cable lineup to make room for Al Jazeera English. Making an exception for Current, which is independently owned, he lamented how the least popular channels "have been propped up by their parent companies for years....They have never, to my knowledge, contributed to our understanding of the Middle East....It’s worth asking why they continue to take up bandwidth in tens of millions of homes. It’s certainly worth asking if you’re one of the 7 million Americans who recently had to stream the unrest in Egypt on Al Jazeera English because it wasn’t on your cable system."
Concluding his piece, Barnhart continued to attack big media companies for preventing the Middle Eastern news channel from getting a place on cable: "...most low-rated cable channels are owned by media conglomerates that have included them as part of package deals with your cable or satellite provider. (Current and RFD are exceptions.) That’s why you hear cable companies continuing to insist that channel space is too precious to waste on adding a world news service. They couldn’t drop these losers if they wanted to. What was that thing Olbermann was saying the other day about cable TV content that was free from corporate interference?"
— Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.