David Zaslav supports Chris Licht

David Zaslav

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Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav endorsed CNN CEO Chris Licht during an investor conference Thursday as tension mounted at the network over the decision to broadcast a live broadcast of a Donald Trump town hall with its supporters.

Zaslav said Licht is working “really hard” to improve CNN’s brand and image, citing a recent YouGov poll that said trust in CNN has grown improved by 11 percentage points over the past year. For comparison, trust in the Republican-leaning channel Fox News improved by 17 points and trust in the Democrat-leaning channel MSNBC by 16 points over the same period. Trust in CBS, ABC and NBC has also increased more than in CNN.

Zaslav stressed CNN’s desire for more balance in the network, citing a widespread refrain that he wants to make sure CNN is not an “advocacy network.”

“We have to show both sides of every issue,” said Zaslav.

According to a person familiar with his mindset, Zaslav continues to support CNN’s decision to host Trump City Hall. Trump card leads first polls to win the 2024 Republican nomination for President. Zaslav told CNBC earlier this month that Trump, who continues to falsely claim he was the victim of voter fraud in 2020, should definitely appear on CNN.

“He’s the frontrunner — he has to be on our network,” Zaslav said on CNBC’s Squawk Box. “We are pleased that he will join our network.”

Amanpour criticizes “mutualism”

His comments came a day after veteran CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour publicly questioned the idea of ​​covering “both sides” of the political spectrum when both sides weren’t factual. amanpour spoke at the opening of the Columbia Journalism School on Wednesday.

“Be honest but not neutral,” Amanpour urged the graduates. She said the phrase is “her mantra.”

“Bothsideism does not always mean objectivity. It doesn’t lead to the truth. Making false moral or factual equivalences is neither objective nor truthful. Objectivity is our golden rule, and it is to weigh all sides, hear all the evidence, and hear everyone.” and report everything, but don’t rush to equate them when there isn’t an equate.”

Amanpour said she met with Licht this week to express her disappointment at the broadcast of a Trump town hall in the form it took place. She said Licht told her that “the execution was a little flawed,” CNBC reported earlier this week. Noting that the live audience shouldn’t have cheered every line Trump said, Amanpour called the behavior “appalling”.

Trump once called City Hall anchorman Kaitlan Collins a “bad person.” Amanpour said she would have dropped the mic and left if he did that to her.

Amanpour said broadcasting a taped Trump interview would have been a better solution as it would have allowed CNN to better fend off Trump’s “disinformation and propaganda machine”. Trump faces multiple criminal investigations and earlier this month was found guilty of sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegations. He was also indicted in New York for allegedly falsifying business records.

Amanpour is the first major CNN journalist to publicly criticize Licht and Zaslav’s decision to air City Hall. Several of her colleagues backed her comments on Twitter, demonstrating an underlying dissent within the CNN ranks.

“Telling the truth to those in power is a fundamental part of our job, but telling the truth to the power that signs your checks?@amanpourshow everyone how it’s done.” tweeted Nima Elbagir, chief correspondent for international investigations at CNN.

CNN anchor Sara Sidner tweeted “She’s a real one” about Amanpour, said CNN correspondent Erica Hill repeated.

CNN Hong Kong host Kristie Lu Stout said Amanpour delivered “A master class in journalism.”

Declining ratings, increasing dissatisfaction

Licht has inherited a CNN employee base built largely by former boss Jeff Zucker and his predecessors. Popular with many current employees as an executive, Zucker ran the network in a hands-on style that Licht deliberately avoided.

Zaslav’s mission at CNN is to replace his “left-leaning” image with a more neutral brand, he reiterated Thursday. In his comments Thursday, he noted how many Republicans CNN has recently interviewed.

Still, the changes don’t improve CNN’s ratings. The network total audience was behind not only Fox and MSNBC, but also ahead of the much smaller conservative broadcaster Newsmax at 7:00 p.m. ET and 8:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

CNN’s Profit fell below $1 billion last year. This was reported by the New York Times, marking a six-year low. Declining ratings won’t help the company’s ad revenue this year. Warner Bros. Discovery held its pre-presentation for ad buyers this week. Light spoke at the event.

While business is struggling, Zaslav’s comments about CNN taking a middle-of-the-road policy, particularly when it comes to Trump, have irritated journalists, who don’t equate fighting lies with partisanship.

It’s unclear if CNN staffers’ dissatisfaction with Licht and Zaslav’s recent decision-making amounts to anything other than public nagging.

But as the network struggles with declining ratings and millions of Americans turn away from traditional television each year, sapping CNN’s revenue and profits, Zaslav could face an unwanted distraction that may only get worse as the 2024 presidential election approaches USA is approaching election.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC, MSNBC and CNBC.

WATCH: CNBC’s full interview with David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery

Watch CNBC's full interview with David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery

https://www.cnbc.com/2023/05/18/cnn-trump-town-hall-fallout-zaslav-licht.html David Zaslav supports Chris Licht


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