SAN FRANCISCO — California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is getting a new platform for sharing his made-in-San Francisco values – a national cable television talk show.
Current TV, the liberal-leaning cable channel co-founded by former Vice President Al Gore, announced Wednesday that it had retained the telegenic Democrat to host a weekly hour-long program during which he will chat up “notables from Silicon Valley, Hollywood and beyond.”
“The Gavin Newsom Show” is scheduled to premiere in May during an as-yet undetermined time slot, Current spokeswoman Laura Nelson said.
Newsom, who knows both Gore and Current CEO Joel Hyatt, approached the network with the idea for the program, the lieutenant governor’s spokesman, Francisco Castillo, said. He cleared it with his lawyers to make sure it would not pose a conflict with his elected office, Castillo said.
“One of the intentions for this show is to promote and showcase California, which only benefits the state,” Castillo said.
The commitment should not detract from Newsom’s political duties, which include filling in for Gov. Jerry Brown when he is out of the state and leading several boards and commissions, because his guests are expected to be people he already knows. That would reduce the time he needs to prepare for interviews, Nelson said.
“We do know the show will have a very West Coast, California-focus,” she said. “It’s not an onerous task.”
Newsom, 44, burst onto the national scene in 2004 shortly after he was elected mayor of San Francisco and allowed same-sex couples to get married at City Hall in defiance of state law. As mayor, he also built his reputation by promoting the city as a technology hub and advancing first-of-their-kind programs in the areas of the environment and health care.
Newsom ran for governor in 2010, but dropped out of the race when Brown appeared to have a lock on the election and became a candidate for the infinitely less glamorous job of lieutenant governor. He is often mentioned as a potential future contender for governor or U.S. senator.
The talk show “may provide him with a forum to discuss issues he would love to be dealing with if he were governor,” Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University, Sacramento, said. “He needs a forum that allows him to articulate a platform , because (as lieutenant governor) he really doesn’t have one.”
California campaign rules do not preclude elected officials from getting paid for regular broadcast work as long as their compensation is in line with what other hosts get and they do not use their air time to campaign for re-election or slam political opponents, according to guidance the state Fair Political Practices Commission gave a candidate for Los Angeles mayor who hosts a radio program.
Gore and Hyatt founded Current TV in 2005 as a liberal foil to Fox News. It is available in 60 million U.S. households, but has struggled to cultivate a significant audience. Last year, they made a bid to raise its profile by hiring former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann for a nightly show but fired him last month after their relationship soured.
Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who had a short-lived talk show on CNN, was hired to replace Olbermann.
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