The head of Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN, is now taking a stand against a common perception that his news network is biased in favor of the political left.
This week’s issue of Broadcasting & Cable features an interview with Turner CEO Phil Kent, who was asked: “What’s the biggest misconception about CNN?”
“That it’s a liberal news network,” Kent responded. “It drives me crazy. It’s not.”
Interviewer Andrea Morabito followed up by asking Kent how he could change the perception.
He responded: “I think [if] people watch it more critically and not just listen to what other people say about it – I won’t mention names – they’ll see that it [isn't], and I think one of the things we fix is make sure we have the right balance of voices on CNN. That we have good conservatives, good liberals, experts in all areas. It’s a serious news network.”
Kent’s remarks are being ridiculed by the likes of John Nolte of Breitbart.com.
“What’s unsettling about the Kent interview,” Nolte said, “is that Kent doesn’t appear to watch his own network.”
He continued: “Kent should turn on CNN right now – this very second – and what he’ll see is what I’ve been seeing for over a week now: a network on a pro-same sex marriage crusade that gives zero time to anyone credible or thoughtful on the other side of the argument. When it comes to gay marriage, there is no difference between CNN and MSNBC.
“Kent should tune into CNN during any hour of ‘Piers Morgan Live,’ because what he would see is a leftist demagogue feasting off a terrible tragedy and accusing anyone who stands for Second Amendment civil rights of hating children and being pro-murder.”
CNN is at a 20-year low when it comes to viewership, and Broadcasting & Cable asked Kent about the kind of timeline he and CNN president Jeff Zucker discussed for making changes and seeing results.
Not overnight, not short-term. He and I both know this is a marathon not a sprint. In fact, I have probably said more times than I needed to say “you don’t need to do any Hail Mary moves.” We have a good business, we get a great CPM premium. We need more “M’s,” yes, but let’s do it the right way. Let’s get the fans back. I think the biggest problem that CNN has had over the last couple of years is the ratings go up and down with the news environment. We lost fans because of inconsistency. What he and I talked about-and this is where I have great comfort that we’re on the same page-is people need to know what they’re tuning into when they tune into CNN and it has to be deemed essential by more people again. What that’s going to do is not only get the ratings up the right way through the acquisition of getting back old fans and getting new fans, but also in the affiliate side, which again, half our revenue comes from advertising, half comes from affiliate revenue; there’s nothing better than to be deemed essential by a hard-core pocket of people.
The magazine then asked Kent: “You’ve said before the problem with primetime was largely operational, not talent. Do you still believe that?”
“I think we have a lot of good talent,” he said. “I think what we’ve had, quite frankly, is not enough great behind-the-camera talent. I think we have a number of fantastic producers at CNN but we need more. A lot of attention was given to on-camera talent but probably not enough commensurate attention to producing talent, and Jeff understands even more than I do how important that is – TV is a producer’s medium.
“Everyone knows I was very close to, and was a big fan of Jeff’s predecessor, but Jim [Walton] was more into running the whole business of CNN and would be the first one to say that he wasn’t the content person. With Jeff Zucker we get the benefit of not only somebody who is a good businessperson and has the ability to lead a large organization, but he is a real expert in news content. He’s an impresario. And that’s what CNN needed – a news content impresario.”
In May 2012, WND reported how radio giant Rush Limbaugh pondered the possibility of taking over the management of CNN and running things the El Rushbo way.
America’s top-rated host was responding to a listener’s question about how long it would take to turn the cable-news network around and make it similar to what Fox News is.
“A couple of days. Just the announcement that I was going to run CNN would add a million viewers a night,” Limbaugh responded. “And then when we started making changes, it wouldn’t take long at all.”
“If it were announced that I were going to be running CNN, could you imagine the excrement storm from everywhere if that happened?” he asked rhetorically. “But the tune-in factor would be through the roof, the curiosity tune-in factor. Do any of you doubt that you could improve it? Every one of you thinks you can improve it. Just go show by show. Segment by segment. ‘Nope, wouldn’t have done that, here’s the way to do that.’ Segment by segment you could fix CNN.”
He then got into specific steps he would take at CNN, saying it would not be difficult.
“Basically what I would do is have every editor there listen to this program, and then in prime time, everything we covered on this program would be treated as the news of the day, ’cause that’s what I do. I do the news of the day. They ignore the stuff that we find on this program. I just put the news on that they don’t find interesting or that they don’t think is news. This is a broad, broad overview.
“Philosophically, what CNN’s gotta do is decide who they want to be and then admit it. Right now, they’ve got themselves believing that they are objective, non-partisan journalists. They believe that MSNBC is liberal, that Fox is conservative and that they are Edward R. Murrow. …
“They also believe that the news should have no opinions while they’re full of opinions,” Limbaugh said with a chuckle. “The problem is they won’t own up to their opinions, they won’t admit to it. You’ve got to be competitive in the arena in which you choose to battle. And it’s very clear what cable news has become. It’s become personality-oriented opinion. Unabashed, fearless personality opinion. Anything else is pretense. And if you’re going to do personality-oriented opinion and then deny that’s what you’re doing, then you’re never gonna pull it off because people are going to realize you’re not even being honest with yourself.”