A slumping CNN reportedly is considering hiring former NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker to turn around the beleaguered network.
Zucker, considered a whiz kid by many in the industry, left NBC Universal when the Comcast Corp. acquired a majority stake in the company two years ago.
If selected by CNN, Zucker will replace outgoing chief executive Jim Walton who in July announced his intention to resign by year’s end.
The network, which is owned by Time Warner, was founded in 1980 by media mogul Ted Turner and was the nation’s first all-news channel offering 24-hour television news coverage.
In recent years however, CNN’s ratings have declined significantly, with the cable news network having its worst prime-time ratings in 21 years during the second quarter of this year.
CNN, which is often described by liberals as moderate and by conservatives as left-leaning, has struggled with its identity in the ever-politicized world of TV news. Many analysts attribute the deterioration of its viewership in recent years to the steady rise of Fox News, which dominates the ratings race in cable news with its conservative commentary in prime time, and MSNBC, which appeals to America’s left with its progressive perspective on the news.
“They don’t want to be Fox and they don’t want to be MSNBC. Fine. But ‘neither nor’ is not an identity,” New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen told the New York Times.
The sentiment was echoed by disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who had headlined the now-canceled CNN show “In The Arena.”
“CNN tries very hard to position itself as a non-ideological news network, but there’s no objectivity in network news. It would be better for all of us if we just accepted that . . . CNN has a serious question of what it is and they’ve got to answer that,” Spitzer said in an interview with MediaBistro.com.
Whether Zucker is the solution to CNN’s identity-crisis or simply someone who can improve the network’s ratings is yet to be seen. According to a Reuters’ source, the cable news network will announce the appointment of Zucker as its new president by the end of next week.
Time Warner has yet to comment on the rumored interest in Zucker.
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