Current Italy to Go Dark

After long battle with News Corp., channel will go off the air in Italy on Sunday

Current TV’s last-ditch efforts to save its left-leaning Italian-language network, Current Italy, have failed and the channel will go dark this Sunday, according to an internal memo sent out to staffers by Current co-founder and CEO Joel Hyatt this morning.

“It is with great sadness and frustration that I must inform all of you that Current Italy will go off the air and cease operations on Sunday,” Hyatt wrote.

In recent months, Current had been engaged in a protracted and public battle with News Corp., which owns Sky Italia, Current Italy’s carrier and the only satellite platform operating in that country. News Corp. made the abrupt and, at the time, unexpected decision to pull Current from its airwaves last May, only a few months after the network announced that it was hiring former MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann as a prime-time host.

In his note to staffers, Hyatt described News Corp.’s decision to pull Current as a “purely political decision,” echoing a point that Current co-founder Al Gore had made to the Guardian this past May. In that interview, Gore alleged that Olbermann’s hiring at Current was News Corp’s main impetus for pulling the plug, and lambasted News Corp. for wielding "an ideological agenda."

"News Corporation . . . seeks political power in every nation they operate. They wield that power to shut down voices that disagree with the agenda of Rupert Murdoch," Gore told the Guardian.

The announcement of Current Italy’s closure comes just one day after news emerged that Current TV CEO Mark Rosenthal is stepping down after two years in that job, ceding full responsibility to Hyatt. Hyatt had been working alongside Rosenthal as co-CEO for the past two months, and sources told Adweek that Rosenthal is leaving because he wasn’t comfortable sharing that top spot. Also of note: after the resignation and arrest of Murdoch deputy Rebekah Brooks in mid-July, it was former Sky Italia chief Tom Mockridge who ascended to the position of Brooks’ replacement as head of Murcoch's News International.