Liberty Media chairman John Malone, who sits on the Discovery Communications Inc. board of directors, wants to see left-wing CNN revert back to nonpartisan journalism following the completion of a merger that would put the liberal network under the Discovery umbrella.
“I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,” Malone said in an interview that aired Thursday on CNBC.
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CNN’s current programming slate features a variety of shows – including “New Day,” “Anderson Cooper 360,” “Cuomo Prime Time” and “Don Lemon Tonight” that don’t always align with founder Ted Turner’s bare bones, just-the-facts approach to journalism.
Earlier this year, AT&T Inc. agreed to merge its WarnerMedia division with Discovery Communications Inc., creating a streaming giant to compete with Walt Disney Co.’s Disney+ and Netflix. The deal is expected to close in 2022.
CNN, which has struggled to attract viewers during the Biden era, has been long rumored to be sold off as it isn’t a clear fit for the streaming world. However, Malone would prefer to keep it and rehabilitate its reputation.
“I think a coward’s way out would be to sell it or spin it off and then tell it in some tax-efficient way,” Malone said. “I do believe good journalism could have a role in this future portfolio that Discovery-TimeWarner’s going to represent.”
CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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Discovery CEO David Zaslav will lead the combined company called Warner Bros. Discovery and he has publicly committed to keeping CNN after the merger. While Malone is on board with keeping CNN, he is aware other might not agree.
“I’m just one voice here,” Malone said.
He also praised Fox News, singling out Bret Baier and Brit Hume in particular.
“Fox News, in my opinion, has followed an interesting trajectory of trying to have ‘news’ news, I mean some actual journalism, embedded in a program schedule of all opinions,” he said.
CNN has developed a reputation as a left-wing opinion network that bills itself as a straight-news operation and has struggled for relevancy as a result. It recently finished October with its smallest monthly audience among both weekday total day viewers and the key primetime demographic of adults age 25-54 since 2014, as every weekday program on CNN finished with a yearly low in both categories.
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CNN’s most popular program for the news-heavy month was the scandal-plagued “Cuomo Prime Time,” which averaged 811,000 nightly viewers to finish behind 15 Fox News and seven MSNBC programs. Despite being the most popular show on CNN, “Cuomo Prime Time” had its worst month since it launched in 2017.
Fox News topped CNN by more than 240% in primetime viewers and 150% among the primetime demo to finish with its largest win over the liberal network since 2014. In addition to ratings struggles, CNN has been faced with a serious of embarrassing scandals and controversies including legal analysts Jeffrey Toobin’s infamous Zoom incident and Chris Cuomo being named in a state investigation as a member of a team of outside, loyal confidants to his big brother — former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who contributed to a culture allowing the governor’s “sexually harassing conduct” to “flourish.”
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Fox Business’ Jonathan Garber contributed to this report.