Current TV has added a full-time elected official to a team heavy on former politicians: California's sitting lieutenant governor will host the weekly "Gavin Newsom Show" beginning next month.
Many past politicians have gone on to television careers, including former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and ex-New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, who both have shows on Current. But Newsom is in the extremely unusual position of hosting a show while still in office.
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Current said Newsom will be paid, but wouldn't disclose his salary. It said he would be donating it to charity.
The fact that the show is weekly suggests that it won't provide a daily distraction from his official duties. Not that a lieutenant governor has all that much to do. Before seeking the office, Newsom said it had "no real authority and no real portfolio besides sitting on some statewide seats."
The Federal Communications Commission's equal time provision requires stations to treat legally qualified political candidates equally in terms of the broadcast time they sell or give away. If Newsom were a candidate, Current could be required under the rule to provide equal time to any and all of his opponents.
But Newsom is not currently a candidate under the equal time rules, which only apply when a candidate has publicly announced, is legally qualified for the job, and has qualified for the ballot.
A Current spokeswoman told TheWrap that Newsom would quit the show if he becomes a candidate again. She said the network was "not concerned" about the equal time provision because Newsom is not currently a candidate, and that it would "mostly not be a political show."
Newsom, who was elected lieutenant governor in 2010 after serving as San Francisco's mayor, would next stand for election in 2014 if he seeks another term. He could also mount another run for governor.
Newsom abandoned a bid for the office in 2009. Gov. Jerry Brown was elected in 2010, after previously holding the office from 1975 to 1983. At 74, Brown is the country's oldest sitting governor, raising the possibility of another Democrat — perhaps Newsom — seeking the office in 2014.
Giving a forum to potential candidates can also create journalistic quandaries. Fox News, which Democrats have denounced as a Republican mouthpiece, suspended contributors Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum last year when it appeared that they might run for president. (They did.) Neither held office at the time.
Current said Newsom's hour-long talk show will feature him interviewing notables from Silicon Valley and Hollywood, among others. It will be executive produced by Mia Haugen, a veteran of The Street, Forbes and CNN.
"Gavin Newsom is a courageous leader who has boldly seized every opportunity to create positive social change," said Current TV Chairman and former Vice President Al Gore. "First as a successful entrepreneur, then in his role as Mayor of San Francisco, and now as Lieutenant Governor, Newsom touches many worlds — business, politics, entertainment and activism. We are honored that Current TV will be bringing his curiosity, intelligence, insights and enthusiasm to television."
The addition adds another high-profile Democrat to the network's roster after the sudden exit of "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann, who departed last month after feuding with management, less than a year after joining Current following his abrupt exit from MSNBC. Olbermann is suing Current.
The network has struggled for ratings as it tries to establish itself as a progressive, independent voice alternative to other TV news outlets.