EDINBURGH, Scotland – Former Vice President Al Gore said Sunday ever-tighter political and economic control of the media is a major threat to democracy.
Gore said the goal behind his year-old "interactive" television channel Current TV was to encourage the kind of democratic dialogue that thrives online but is increasingly rare on TV.
"Democracy is under attack," Gore told an audience at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. "Democracy as a system for self-governance is facing more serious challenges now than it has faced for a long time.
"Democracy is a conversation, and the most important role of the media is to facilitate that conversation of democracy. Now the conversation is more controlled, it is more centralized."
He said that in many countries, media control was being consolidated in the hands of a few businesspeople or politicians.
Gore said in Italy much of the media is owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has stifled dissent on television, and in South Africa, Gore said, dissent "is disappearing, and free expression is under attack."
In the United States "the only thing that matters in American politics now is having enough money to put 30-second commercials on the air often enough to convince the voters to elect you or re-elect you," he said. "The person who has the most money to run the most ads usually wins."
Gore lost the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush in disputed circumstances. Current TV was launched last year amid much skepticism, but anticipated the tide of user-generated content now sweeping the media world.
His long-standing warnings about the threat from global warming have reached a mass audience thanks to "An Inconvenient Truth," a slick, stark movie that has become one of the most successful documentaries in U.S. history.
Gore's renewed popularity, and his high-profile book and movie tours across the United States, have spurred speculation of a White House run in 2008. He denied it again Sunday.
"I don't have any plans to be a candidate, I don't expect to be a candidate," he said. "I really do not expect ever to be a candidate again."
Gore said there was a link between control of the media and a lack of political action to control climate change.
"Questions of fact that are threatening to wealth and power become questions of power," he said. "And so the scientific evidence on global warming — an inconvenient truth for the largest polluters — becomes a question of power, and so they try to censor the information."