Julian Assange became a lightning rod of varied public opinion through his website WikiLeaks, where any internet user could find information from previously classified government and corporate documents. Assange is the focus of several ongoing court cases, and created quite the stir with his stance that citizens should have access to government records even in cases where it may affect national security. Well now it seems that Assange is about to enter the public eye in a much different light, as the host of a new talk show. “The World Tomorrow” will premiere next week on Russia’s state-funded television network.
RT is an English-language news network, available worldwide over satellite, and Assange is clearly their most visible international host. Both star and network are keeping the details quiet prior to the premiere, building buzz with a mystery lineup. And Assange is using his WikiLeaks fanbase to promote the show. WikiLeaks and RT have gone online through their websites and on Twitter, drumming up anticipation. They are not going to release their initial interview guest list, but are asking viewers to email and tweet their best guesses.
It is clear that “The World Tomorrow” is already stirring up significant controversy, even before Assange has spoken a single word on the air. News commentators worldwide have sounded off on the partnership, wondering what Assange’s choice of network means. Again, the show will air on a channel controlled by the Russian government, and considering the previous charges filed against Assange, commentators have voiced their concern that this points to some sort of relationship between the WikiLeaks founder and the Kremlin itself. After all, RT is funded by the government, so it holds to reason that they will have some amount of control and input in “The World Tomorrow”.
Assange is currently under house arrest in the UK, while his attorneys fight an extradition call from Sweden. Given his delicate legal stance, it is not yet clear how he’ll host the show. He is facing allegations that he raped and sexually assaulted two Swedish individuals, and Britain’s Supreme Court is trying to decide whether he should be sent to Sweden to face these charges. Assange himself continues to deny the truth of the allegations.
The man himself feels his current situation gives him something of an advantage as host of this new show. In the show’s trailer that premiered online, he suggested that interviewing guests while under house arrest gives the process a unique, new dimension. The trailer for “The World Tomorrow” described these mystery guests as opinion formers and dissidents. And it’s clear that the network is welcoming the controversy. RT’s Editor-in-Chief, Margarita Simonyan declared in a statement that the show is geared towards “open-minded people who question what they see in mainstream media”.
The show will simultaneously air on three of RT’s channels, in English, Arabic and Spanish. There will be twelve shows in the season, each one comprising an edited, 26-minute interview with Assange and a guest. It will be interesting to see if the show takes advantage of PCI compliant hosting, or opens itself up to the same sort of information gathering that WikiLeaks used against private companies and the U.S. State Department.