Saturday, May 24, 2008

CNN/TBS's Historic `Godfather' & Corporate Connections

(The following article first appeared in the February 2, 1994 issue of the now-defunct alternative newsweekly, Downtown, when CNN was still controlled by Ted Turner.)

According to Contemporary Business Leaders, during the 1980s then CNN/TBS Director “Malone had quietly become the dominant force in the American cable industry, while Turner was noisily tilting at various windmills” and “often called the `Godfather of Cable,’ Malone had clearly become TBS’s godfather by 1988…” Malone graduated from Yale the same year that JFK was mysteriously eliminated and worked for Bell Telephone during the Vietnam War era, before becoming a Tele-Communications Inc. cable system company executive in the 1970s.

In the 1990s, the then-52-year-old Malone continued to sit on the board of directors of both the CNN/TBS company that profited from providing programs to cable systems and the Tele-Communications Inc. company that profited from providing cable system programs to pay-TV subscribers. In addition to being a CNN/TBS Director and a Tele-Communications Inc. Director in the early 1990s, Malone was also the chairman of the board of the Wyoming-based Liberty Media Corporation, which owned 50 percent of the American Movie Classics cable-TV programming company in partnership with NBC at that time [and currently owns the MacNeil-Lehrer Productions media firm that produces PBS’s evening NewsHour television show each night].

In 1994, then-CNN/TBS Director Malone’s Tele-Communications Inc. operated 629 cable systems in the U.S. for 7.7 million pay-TV cable system subscribers. In Northern New Jersey, its TCI of Northern New Jersey subsidiary, for example, provided pay-TV cable for a profit to about 194,000 subscribers in 1994. Another Tele-Communications board member at that time, Bob Magness, had also been a director of Republic Pictures, United Artist Communications, Community Tele-Communications and West Marc Communications. Not surprisingly, CNN has not become famous for providing its cable-TV viewers with much investigative reporting about the U.S. pay-TV cable industry or the extent to which cable-TV subscription prices are fixed at an artificially high rate for consumers.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, directors of Time-Warner, HBO, Continental Cablevision, Comcast Corporation, Whittle Communications, American Mobile Systems, United Cable Television, Fashion Channel, Air Atlantic, Frank B. Hall, National Security Bank of Chicago, WMS Industries, Metro Bank-Tech Center and the Cable Advertising Bureau also sat next to Billionaire Ted Turner on the CNN/TBS corporate board.

(Downtown 2/2/94)

Next: CNN/TBS’s Historic 1988-1996 Profitability & Labor Record