Current TV

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

In 1981, the music business and youth culture were given a huge boost, with the advent of MTV. That one television channel revolutionized how we experienced music, and bridged significant divisions between youth, young adults and 30-somethings. In the early years, artists and the network used the opportunity to make political and social statements on the channel, but overtime, MTV grew tired and predictable. Now the channel represents less about idealism and more about the perversion of our youth culture, with shows like Punk'd, Pimp My Ride and Scarred.

I have greater faith in the youth culture of America and so it seems, do others. Former Vice President Al Gore, along with businessman Joel Hyatt founded their own network, called Current TV, in August 2005. The network is currently in 50 million homes. In Los Angeles, you can find it on Time Warner Cable Channel 142. It's also on Cox, Comcast and lots of other cable systems throughout the country as well as on DISH and Direct TV.

There are so many interesting things about Current TV. First of all, 30 percent of their programming is viewer-created content and the network pays for the content selected. The Current staff produces the rest of the programming. Segments on Current TV are called pods and pods run two to eight minutes. The schedule defies the long-standing tradition of television programming. Executives at Current call it the Shuffle. It's as if television segments were programmed to the Shuffle setting, on an iPod. It makes the channel very fast moving.

But it's the subjects of the pods that are most compelling. During a half-hour of viewing last night, I watched pods about the highly prized white lobster trade on the cocaine ridden beaches of Nicaragua, a review of the just-opened 60's art exhibit at New York's Whitney Museum, and a piece memorializing the lynching of five young black men in Newberry, Florida.

Current TV's programming doesn't underestimate the interests of its audience, and at the same time, it educates.

The overriding theme of the channel seems to be an informed citizen makes a better one. The pods are rarely contrived or superfluous. Social, political, religious and sexual issues are all openly addressed. The digital revolution and its impact--in fact, everything that fits the young person's agenda in 2007 are addressed on Current TV.

But the channel is not just for young adults.  The channel is programmed like a television stew of BBC News, your local PBS station, Jon Stewart and the Trio Channel -- all in bite size segments to keep the information flowing.

Commercials are limited. There are only 12 an hour, and they often match the style of the programming. In fact, Current TV is hosting a contest right now for viewers to create advertising for their sponsors, and earn up to $50 thousand.

As for music, the channel programs music in conjunction with other cultural news. Moby might be discussed in a segment about Veganism, or a segment about great Venezuelan food in LA is hosted with the Latin dance band, Los Amigos Invisibles.

Rock 'n roll in the 60's was about building ways to communicate outside the mainstream and join together with a social movement for and against things we believed in. Current TV is really all about that. Check it out.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.