Larry King has a new cable news show premiering in June called, perhaps a bit unimaginatively, Politics with Larry King.
The show is not on CNN, the network King called home from 1985 until 2010. He's not moving to MSNBC or Fox News either. Instead, his new show will be on RT.
In case you haven't heard of it, RT stands for Russia Today, a Moscow-backed 24/7 cable news network that, according to its own numbers, "has a global reach of over 630 million people in 100+ countries."
Unless you have specifically asked Comcast or Time Warner Cable for RT, chances are you won't be able to watch Politics with Larry King on your TV. It will, however, be available on Hulu for all the college kids who depend on the soon-to-be octogenarian for their weekly fix of politics.
So who are Larry King's new employers?
"Russia Today was conceived as a soft-power tool to improve Russia's image abroad," according to the Columbia Journalism Review, "to counter the anti-Russian bias the Kremlin saw in the Western media."
Rewind a few years: Vladimir Putin, a man King once said he had an "affinity" for, had effectively censored TV stations within Russia. So he decided to tackle another press problem: The torrent of criticism directed at Russia from outside news agencies.
The English-language cable channel was given a 25-year-old editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, and run as a non-profit under RIA Novosti, the state-controlled news agency, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
At first, the channel was known mostly for covering stories with a pro-Kremlin slant and giving airtime to crackpot guests and theories that other networks wouldn't touch.
Gradually, it has been able to attract more mainstream journalists to speak on its talk shows. Guests have included The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and Reason senior editor Jacob Sullum, according to The New Republic's Jesse Zwick.
Stephen Cohen, a professor of Russian studies at NYU and occasional analyst on the network, described the channel's philosophy to Zwick:
They spend a lot of time on stories that come and go here in the U.S. because they think they reflect badly on us, and they’re particularly aggrieved by American sermonizing abroad. They’ve spent a lot of time on the Occupy movement, and, when the Kremlin decided to let protesters gather in large numbers, RT juxtaposed that with authorities rounding up Occupiers around the U.S. You didn’t need a lot of narrative to get the connection, and they were able to say: This is how the Americans treat their protesters and, by comparison, we’re flower children. [New Republic]
The draw, according to Sullum, has been the ability to talk about pet issues that other networks don't want to get into. RT's press release seems to suggest King, who will instantly become the network's most visible celebrity in America, made the move for the same reasons: "The veteran broadcaster will not shy away from causing controversy, or using his authority to give a chance to hear voices other media ignore."
King will also still have Larry King Now, a show that has been airing on Hulu and Ora TV since last year.
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