What, Exactly, Is CNN?

…and what are NBC and ABC?

When referencing these networks…for example, when talking about CNN’s increasingly-extreme political bias, ABC’s running of a video supposedly from Syria which was actually from Kentucky, or the reports about widespread abuse of women at  NBC, people tend to simply refer to them as “CNN”, “ABC”, or “NBC”, as if they were independent entities.  But they’re not.

CNN is owned by AT&T.  NBC is owned by Comcast, and ABC is owned by Disney.

The history is that CNN was part of Turner Broadcasting, which merged with Time-Warner in 1996.  Following a whole host of acquisition and divestiture transactions (which included a very expensive experience with AOL), Warner Media was acquired by AT&T in 2018.  NBC was acquired by GE in 1986 as part of its reacquisition of RCA; the networks was put into a joint venture with Comcast in 2009, and the GE share of the venture was bought out by Comcast in 2013. Disney acquired ABC in 1996 as part of its acquisition of Capital Cities/ABC Inc.

Given how these entities have been shuffled around, it may be understandable that people refer to them simply by the names of the networks; still, I think the proper way to refer to CNN would be “CNN, a subsidiary of telecommunications giant AT&T” and similarly for the others.

15 thoughts on “What, Exactly, Is CNN?”

  1. I’ve been down to that part of Kentucky a few times to tour the bourbon distilleries. It’s a great place. If they ever tried to invade, the Turks would be annihilated. In fact, ABC better stop giving people any ideas. There are a lot of Kentuckians I’m sure who would welcome the challenge.

  2. We need to completely destroy the absurd self-serving myth of the US media as neutral arbiters of “objective” “news”. They were never any such thing and certainly aren’t at all like that now. Is there any other country in which the media has been able to perpetuate a fraud like this? My understanding is that in other countries people explicitly accept that media outlets have a bias, and that’s ok. In fact, it’s healthier than our system. It is known and accepted that the Guardian is coming from the left, so if they want to report “news” rather than opinion, they need to back it up rigorously or no one is going to believe it, or care. But because the New York Times, Washington Post, etc., are allowed this absurd image as respectable news organizations, they can print the most ludicrous garbage and gossip and it’s taken seriously. By some people still at least…

  3. The mainstream broadcast media establishment does look as if it is going down in flames, with CNN’s management being outed as being particularly partisan – I mean, we always suspected this, but Project Veritas now has ripped off that cloak of impartiality in providing video proof. ABC running a completely unrelated bit of nighttime bombardment video just because it was splashy and fit the narrative. And NBC now looking like sex abuse central.
    Credibility with at least half the viewing audience shot to heck. The mainstream broadcast media can’t even bother pretending to be impartial any more…

  4. What I am wondering about is: what does the top management of AT&T think about CNN (assuming they think about it at all)??

    Is CNN’s extreme political bias a reflection of AT&T corporate policy? And, if so, is this policy motivated by a sincere belief that it is somehow best for the company and its shareholders, or is it purely a reflection of personal executive beliefs about politics (or about what will make them look best among their peers)??

    Or is AT&T top management so busy with other things that they have had no time to pay attention to what is going on in this relatively unimportant subsidiary?

    Or are they following strict corporate decentralization theory (“as long as they make their numbers, we leave them alone”)???…hard to believe in the case of CNN itself, which is scarcely a resounding success, but maybe if you apply it to the results of their next-higher-level parent organization.

    Or are they planning to spin it off soon, so just don’t care for that reason?

  5. Something calling itself Ultraviolet Action (“a leading national women’s organization”) called on the DNC to “cancel the upcoming 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate on MSNBC until Comcast and NBC News take clear steps to clean up the toxic culture that exists across their networks.” Speaking of the report about abuse of women at NBC, the organization said “These are problems that can only be solved by significant structural and cultural changes at MSNBC, NBC News, and its parent company, Comcast.”

    The focus on Comcast, the corporate parent, represents an interesting change from the way attacks and critiques of media organization have usually been phrased.


  6. CNN is paying airports to keep it running in travelers’ faces.

    Comcast is already “the most hated corporation in America” and NBC fits right in. As a reluctant recipient of Comcast cable service, I can support the description.

    ABC fits right with Disney, which suppressed the TV program “The Path to 9/11” until Hillary was seen as out of politics. I expect it may disappear again if she gets into the Dim primary again. It is worth seeing again if you can find a copy.

  7. > Kentucky

    The Kentuckians have taken on foreign enemies before:

    “But Jackson he was wide awake,
    And was not scar’d at trifles,
    For well he knew what aim we take,
    With our Kentucky rifles:
    So he led us down by Cypress swamp,
    The ground was low and mucky;
    There stood John Bull in martial pomp,
    And here was old Kentucky.”

    – “The Hunters of Kentucky”, by Sam Woodsworth, 1821

  8. That is a good question, But a more important one is; why do ABC; CNN; NBC etal, still have a viewer- and reader- -ship, after people are aware of their repulsiveness? And for the same reason, why do people continue to vote Democrat? Those are the truly great mysteries of human nature; how people can be deceived, kept in the dark and fed fertilizer for so many years, and yet keep coming back for more.

  9. @David – I have wondered that for years – to include print media, too. Generally board members are conservative aren’t they?

    I would be equally unhappy if they touted just the conservative line (and filtered all their news through that prism), and I would think that it is “numbers only”, but CNN’s numbers are terrible and getting worse.

    Ditto for MS-NBC.

    Come to think of it, MS-NBC’s ratings are up with all the Trump vitriol. This may have something to do with something I read years ago in Rush’s book.

    When he took over the slot at KFBK in Sacramento, he noticed an interesting phenomenon. While half the potential audience hated him, the other half loved him and it was enough to see his sponsors really increase business. IOW that 50% weren’t just casual listeners.

    Maybe that’s the logic of these late night talk shows too. They are predictable in their opening monologues, but they have their audience.

    I don’t get it.

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